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Full text of "A memoir of Edward Askew Sothern"

A MEMOIR 



OF 



EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 



T. EDGAR PEMBERTON. 




FOURTH EDITION. 



LONDON: 

RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 

^ublisfjers m (Brtinarg to $?et fffiajrsto tije ©urm. 

18P0. 

(All rights reserved.) 



INTRODUCTION. 



More than eight years have elapsed since Edward 
Askew Sothern, one of the most original and 
popular of modern comedians, passed away, 
yet, beyond some appreciative mention of him 
in recent volumes of interesting literary and 
theatrical reminiscences, no life of him has 
appeared. Long have I felt that there should 
exist some record of his remarkable stage career, 
and of the place that he held in the hearts of 
those who knew, understood, and loved him. 
Finding that two short articles from my pen 
concerning him that appeared in the pages of 
The Theatre magazine attracted some attention, 
and subsequently having been fortunate enough 



IV INTRODUCTION. 

to obtain the help of the surviving members of 
his family and near friends (who gave me con- 
siderable material, for which I here desire to 
thank them), I resolved to attempt a biography, 
and tell the story of his experiences as an actor. 

I knew him intimately — well enough to 
appreciate his merits, and to understand his 
faults — and I found in him, as many others did, 
the most tender, considerate, vigilant, and warm- 
hearted of friends. If this work does a tardy 
justice to one who was the brilliant star (in his 
case I might say, comet) of many seasons, my 
labour will be amply repaid. 

T. EDGAR PEMBERTON. 

June llth, 1889. 



CONTENTS 



sothern on the stage ... ... ... ... 1 

sothern off the stage ... ... ... 113 

sothern in the hunting-field ... ... ... 175 

Sothern in High Spirits ... ... ... 199 

Conclusion ... ... ... ... ... 303 

Postscript to the Third Edition ... ... 308 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



PAGE 

SOTHERN AS " LORD DUNDREARY " . . . ... On Cover 

Facsimile of Envelope ... ... ... 210 

Facsimile of Bank-note ... ... ... 302 



A MEMOIR 



OF 



EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

CHAPTER I. 

sothern on the stage. 

" Sir, 

" The press of business previous to 
the closing of our season has prevented my 
answering' your note earlier, and I now write to 
assure you that I witnessed your performance at 
Weymouth with much pleasure. 

" Our company for next season is complete, 
and from my connection with Mr. Keeley, I am 
not quite my own master ; but as I shall be alone 
in management next September I shall be happy 
to hear from you about Easter-time, when I will 
enter into communication with you respecting an 
engagement at my theatre. In the meantime I 

1 



I EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERX. 

hope you will keep yourself in constant practice, 
without which natural talent is of little avail. I 
thought your acting in ' Used Up ' very good 
indeed, but in Claude Melnotte it suggested itself 
to me that you occasionally ' preached ' too much, 
instead of giving vent to the impulse of the 
character. In the third act, when you brought 
Pauline to your mother's cottage, you were 
scarcely subdued enough in your action. The 
head erect, with eye to eye, bespoke too much on 
your part the injured man, rather than one who 
had deeply wronged another. Your entrance in 
the first act should have been, I think, more 
excited and rapid. The character of the young 
Frenchman should at once be developed to his 
audience by an exhibition of that enthusiasm con- 
sequent on his village victory, which afterwards 
wins for him the soldier's laurels on the field of 
battle. 

" You will, I am sure, excuse my pointing out 
to you what struck me as wrong in your con- 
ception. I would not do so, but that I think 
you are in possession of talents that may one day 
work their way in London, provided they are 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 6 

properly cultivated. Your faults generally were 
those of a novice, which practice will conquer. 

" Pray accept my best wishes for your success, 
and, hoping to hear from you at the time I have 
stated, believe me, 

" Yours truly, 

" Charles Kean." 

In October, 1851, in this kindly yet critical 
fashion, wrote the foremost actor of his day to 
a young stage beginner destined to secure a fame 
and popularity of which the old-day players had 
little dreamt. It was Edward Askew Sothern 
who, nervously enough, no doubt, had played on 
the boards of the old-fashioned Weymouth Theatre 
Sir Charles Coldstream and Claude Melnotte, under 
the very eye of the great Charles Kean ; and it 
was Edward Askew Sothern who, ten years later 
on, revolutionized the theatrical world of London. 
Prior to the Weymouth performance the 
young actor had had some experience both as an 
amateur and a professional. He was born in 
Liverpool, on April 1, 1826 ("Dundreary and his 
Brother Sam are naturally April fools," he was 



4 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

wont in after-life to say), and had been intended 
by his father for the Church or for the Bar; but 
though for either calling every facility was offered 
him, he would take to neither, and, the theatrical 
instinct being strong within him, he, from a very 
early age, made up his mind that he would be an 
actor. The elder Sothern, a wealthy merchant, 
colliery proprietor, and ship-owner, had the 
strong objection characteristic of his day to all 
things connected with the stage, allowing his 
children to " go to the play " but once in the 
course of the year, and disliked the idea of his son 
taking part in private theatricals. In spite, 
however, of parental advice and admonition (you 
might as well have advised a duckling not to take to 
water) the boy contrived to gratify his inclinations. 
While still at school he managed to pay surrepti- 
tious Saturday night visits to a penny theatre 
hard by his home. His soul was fired by the 
blood-curdling melodramas that he saw there, 
and the glorious and never-to-be-forgotten expe- 
rience of having been permitted to cross the stage 
of a real theatre during a " rally" in the clown's 
scenes that succeed pantomime (they were in 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 

those days the great feature in pantomime). He 
gave on one of his half-holidays, assisted by his 
schoolfellows, a matinee, at which, in the two or 
three farces that were produced, he played all the 
comic parts, and, between each interval, sang a 
song. A little later on, having declined to enter 
upon a clerical, legal, or even medical career — 
which had also been offered to him — and while he 
was making futile efforts to accustom himself to 
the routine of work in his father's office, he joined 
the " Sheridan Amateur Dramatic Society," where 
real actresses were engaged, and the pieces were 
performed with some degree of completeness. 
Very speedily he became the " leading man " of 
this local histrionic club, and, having delighted 
himself and his young friends in such light 
pieces as "Othello" and "The Gamester," he 
became quite certain as to his destiny and calling. 
For an amateur to obtain a hearing on the bond 
jide stage was in those days a far more difficult 
matter than it is now ; but chance favoured 
Sothern, for in the spring of 1849 he was staying 
with wealthy friends at St. Helier's, Jersey, and 
the Theatre Royal at that little town was under 



b EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

the temporary management of a Mons. Gilmer, 
and being asked, as at that time was the custom, 
for their patronage, Sothern's friends suggested to 
the manager that he should give the ambitious 
amateur a chance on the regular boards. Mons. 
Gilmer, whose one aim was to get sufficiently 
good houses to enable him to leave the island, 
consented, and, being a man of much theatrical 
experience, put Sothern through his facings in the 
character of Claude Melnotte, in which it was 
decided that his first appearance should be made. 
Even to-day Mons. Gilmer does not speak in very 
enthusiastic terms of his pupil or his first per- 
formance ; but that it was eminently satisfactory 
to the stage-struck Sothern is proved by the fact 
that he at once determined to burn his boats, and 
become an actor in right-down earnest. Warned 
by his tutor-manager that he was not likely to 
endure the drudgery of his proposed professional 
career so long as he had money to spend and to 
live upon, his first step was to squander every 
farthing in his possession (a task that his ever 
pleasure-loving nature made an exceedingly easy 
one), and being thus by his own act reduced to 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 7 

the necessity of working, he adopted the pseudonym 
of " Douglas Stuart," and became a regular member 
of the St. Helier's stock company. Here, with 
much courage and very characteristic perseverance, 
he played a great number of parts, his adopted 
name continually figuring in the play-bills in 
comedy, melodrama, and farce. The name of 
Stuart he retained until, following the advice of 
Mr. Lester Wallack, he abandoned it for his own. 
This was not, however, until he had secured 
something like a recognized position on the 
American stage, and he has left it on record that 
one of his reasons (the initial one was, of course, 
the objection taken by his family to his sudden 
plunge into the theatrical world) for continuing to 
act under an assumed name was that he hoped his 
friends would never know anything of the struggles 
and privations through which, during the early 
days of his self-chosen career, he had to pass. 

In Jersey he no doubt did a great deal of 
rough, useful work. Speaking years afterwards 
at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, at a perform- 
ance given for the benefit of his friend, Mr. J. C. 
Smith, who, in 1849, was also a member of the 



8 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

company playing at the St. Helier's Theatre, he 
told the audience how he had played Hamlet to 
the bsneficiares Ghost ; but, prior to this great 
opportunity, there were many less ambitious 
appearances, and at least one in Shakespeare's 
immortal play, in which he was cast for Laertes, 
the Ghost, and the Second Actor. 

In connection with this undertaking (in those 
days at the smaller provincial theatres by no 
means an uncommon one) an amusing anecdote 
has been handed down. To assist poor young 
" Stuart," a memorandum was attached to the 
wings telling him when to make his changes. 
Some practical joker took this down, and the 
consequence was that the Second Actor, Laertes, 
and the Ghost, were, since the nervous performer 
was now merely relying upon his memory, con- 
tinually appearing on the stage in the wrong 
character. " Oh, the agony of those moments 
and of that night ! " groaned Sothern, as he recalled 
the incident in after-years. " Fancy the Ghost 
going on to act as Laertes ! " 

From Jersey to Weymouth is not a very far 
cry, and this brings me back to the commence- 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 9 

ment of my chapter, and the performance of " The 
Lady of Lyons " and " Used Up," at which Charles 
Kean was present, and concerning which he wrote 
so encouragingly. Pending the time when he 
was to write to the great actor and manager 
respecting a London appearance, Sothern, accept- 
ing such engagements as came in his way, drifted 
to Wolverhampton, and while there an event 
occurred which mapped out his career. 

The Mons. Gilmer of the Jersey days, who 
was closely connected with the fortunes of the 
Theatre Royal, Birmingham, was about to take 
a benefit in the great midland town, and, hearing 
that his struggling and ambitious young friend 
was in the neighbourhood, good-naturedly offered 
him the opportunity of appearing before a larger 
and more critical audience than had hitherto come 
in his way. Sothern jumped at the chance, 
and accordingly appeared on the boards of the 
old Birmingham Theatre as Frank Friskley, in 
the well-known farce entitled "Boots at the 
Swan." The excellence of his acting at once 
caught the critical eye of Mr. Simpson, the then 
manager of the theatre ; he was offered an engage- 



10 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

ment, and became a member of the company. 
That Sothern attached great importance to this 
step in his professional career is amply proved by 
the fact that when, some eleven years later, he 
made his first appearance as Lord Dundreary at 
the Hay market, he caused himself to be announced 
as " formerly of the Theatre Royal, Birmingham." 
" What a difference," I often heard him say, when 
in the days of his fame he revisited the town, 
" between the time when I came over from Wol- 
verhampton to play Frank Frishley on these 
boards, and right thankfully accepted an engage- 
ment at thirty shillings a week, and now, when 
I turn money away from the doors ! But the 
difference is more in the public than in me. I was 
probably as good an actor then as I am now. Like 
many other men, I wanted finding out, and I must 
confess that I have been very lucky." In those 
days Mr. Simpson was the manager of more than 
one theatre, and, after a short but satisfactory 
engagement in Birmingham, Sothern was told off 
to play in Liverpool ; but, disliking this enforced 
return in his 'prentice days to his native town, he 
gave up the idea of waiting for his opportunity 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. ] 1 

with Kean, and accepted an offer that was made to 
him to try his fortune in America. 

At the National Theatre, Boston, at a salary 
of twenty-five dollars a week, he made his first 
American appearance, playing Dr. Pangloss in 
"The Heir-at-Law," and a part in the farce called 
"John Dobbs." The selection of the comedy 
proved to be a most unfortunate one. Sothern's 
failure as Dr. Pangloss was complete, and so 
mercilessly and unanimously was his acting cut up 
in the papers that, to use his own words, he was 
forthwith " dismissed for incapacity." Somewhat 
discouraged, but happily not disheartened, by this 
luckless venture, he then accepted an engagement, 
at a reduced salary, to play juvenile parts at the 
Howard Athenaeum in the same city. 

Of these early American days Mrs. J. R. Vin- 
cent, a veteran actress on the Boston stage, and 
Sothern's lifelong friend, has written * as follows : 
"' Douglas Stuart' was tall, willowy, and lithe, 
with a clear, red-and-white, English complexion ; 

* In a pleasant little book concerning Sothern, entitled 
"Birds of a Feather," that appeared eleven years ago in 
America. His own carefully marked and corrected copy of 
this brief record has been entrusted to me. 



12 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

bright blue eyes; wavy, brown hair; graceful in 
his carriage, and well calculated physically to 
conciliate the heart of any susceptible woman. 
He lived at the same house with me, and I soon 
found that he had all the simplicity and buoyancy 
of a child. He was not rich — anything but that 
— but invariably charitable and generous to the 
extent of prodigality. 

" The opening night was not a success. You 
can fancy the appearance of a boy on the stage. 
I should say he was three or four and twenty, but 
behind the footlights he did not look as if he were 
more than sixteen. He had a singularly sweet 
voice. 

" ' Douglas Stuart's ' next move was to the 
Howard Athenaeum. I remember an incident that 
occurred at this period which illustrates a phase of 
his character to which I have just referred. One 
of the actors (his name was Sneider), a quiet, well- 
behaved, inoffensive man, who was very poor, was 
suddenly taken ill. Stuart, learning this fact, 
went to the head-quarters of Sneider, where he 
found the friendless, penniless fellow more dead 
than alive, in a miserable back attic, and became 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 13 

his constant nurse. Apparently he was in the 
last stage of consumption, and but for the care, 
comfort, and attention rendered by his new-found 
friend he probably would have died. I have seen 
him two or three times within a few years, and he 
never fails to speak in the most enthusiastic terms 
of the kindness and affection shown him during 
that sickness. 

" The first impression produced by ' Douglas 
Stuart ' as an actor was not a favourable one. 
The truth is he had been over-praised. The 
manager of the National Theatre had announced 
it in advance that he was going to bring to 
America * the greatest actor that had ever appeared 
on its stage,' and thus had aroused the expecta- 
tions of the people to such a degree that they were 
naturally disappointed ; hence his failure. Be- 
sides, he was not old enough to make a sensation. 
He could not even ' make-up ' properly, although 
his education was correct, and he was perfect in 
whatever part he undertook. I do not remember 
the different pieces that he played, yet I recall the 
fact that they were remarkably well done for so 
young a man. But, oh, how sensitive he was ! — 



14 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

especially when the papers cut him up, which they 
did without stint." 

At the Howard Athenaeum Sothern did better 
than at the National Theatre, but, feeling that 
his chances of experience were small, he very 
soon went to New York, and succeeded in obtain- 
ing an engagement with Mr. Barnum to play 
twice daily at his famous Museum. Here he got 
the practice that he so much needed, at last 
acquired the art of self-possession, and was thus 
able to study his audiences. His next step was 
an engagement at Washington, at a salary of forty 
dollars a week, and this was followed by success- 
ful appearances at Baltimore and other cities. 
Although by no means regarded as a star, his 
acting must in those days have impressed all true 
critics, as the following, written by one who closely 
watched his progress, will show. The play was 
Buckstone's " Flowers of the Forest " : — 

" These ' Flowers ' were a sort of gipsy gang 
of astonishing appropriating powers, and among 
them the ' character ' is the ' Kinchin.' The 
' Kinchin,' as I remember him, is a swarthy, lank 
individual, out at elbows and knees, ungainly and 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 15 

gaunt. When the rest of the thieves come into 
the shanty, and bring out the various fine valuables 
they have captured, the ' Kinchin ' takes a bandana 
handkerchief from one pocket, something equally 
trivial from every pocket, ending, if I remember, 
with a wretched chicken, which is drawn out of 
his breast and rushes about the stage. The gang 
roar with laughter, and chaff him tremendously ; 
but can I ever forget the look of pathetic grief at 
their ingratitude assumed by the ' Kinchin ' ? 
Shall I ever lose one tone of the injured ' Kinchin's ' 
voice when afterwards, a more serious mood 
having overtaken him, he said, ' Hevery one's 
against me. A swell General, he goes hinto a 
henemmy's country, and kills hevery one he meets 
— and burns their willages — and they cover him 
with stars, and blows a trumpet for him. Hi just 
collar a hen or a handkerchief — they blows no 
trumpet for me, — they whips me, and gives me 
'ancuffs to carry. It's shameful, it is. It quite 
'urts my feelings.' 

" I don't think I should have hesitated to 
prophecy in that moment — it must have been 
fifteen years ago — that the Mr. Stuart who played 



16 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

the part of ' Kinchin ' would some day be a much 
more famous man than I expected. And, indeed, 
he has become famous, for I see him to-day as the 
great impersonator of Dundreary." 

At length the feet of the wandering, hard- 
working young actor touched firm ground, and 
he became a recognized member of Mr. Wallack's 
company; but the parts allotted him were so small, 
and his chances of real distinction seemed so 
remote, that just before the long-expected oppor- 
tunity came he had almost made up his mind to 
abandon the stage, return to England, and seek 
some other employment. Sothern was the hardest 
of workers ; and although there seemed very little 
likelihood of his being called upon to play them, 
he constantly studied (sitting up until four o'clock 
in the morning, and applying himself all day when 
there was no rehearsal) the parts undertaken by 
Lester Wallack. Miss Matilda Heron had been 
engaged to play Camille in a version of " La Dame 
aux Camelias," and three days before the produc- 
tion, which was regarded with considerable appre- 
hension, he was asked if he could study the long 
and important part of Armand Duval. To the sur- 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 17 

prise of the management, it was found that he was 
already " up " in it. It was at once given to 
him, and at the performance, which was in every 
way a pronounced success, he received, for the 
first time in his life, several enthusiastic " calls." 
This settled matters in more ways than one, and, 
having played under the direction of Mr. Wallack 
for about four years, he left him, and joined the 
company of Miss Laura Keene, then acting in 
New York in a theatre which bore the name of 
its manageress. 

How hard he worked in these days, and how 
home-sick he often felt, will be gathered from 
some extracts from letters that he wrote at the 
time to one of his oldest companions and most 
intimate friends in England : — 

" The remembrances brought up by your few 
lines on the old place took me many, many years 
back. I saw myself, as you so well described, 
standing gazing on the river, and a long, strug- 
gling tear forced its w T ay down a cheek that fate 
has done naught but cuff for years. But, God be 
praised, there are brighter days in store, and 
I am as much the old Ned Sothern in heart and 

9 



18 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN". 

feeling as ever, though grey hairs have been 
forced through the hotbed of my weary skull. 
If I have no genius, I at least have indisputable 
perseverance." 

A month later he wrote — 

" I've made a big mark in New York this 
season. My time is as sure to come, if I live, as 
there is a sun in the heavens." 

The desire to return to and act in his own 
country was so strong within him that, hoping 
quickly to raise the wherewithal for the venture, 
he speculated daring an " off-season " as a manager, 
and wrote almost definitely about an appearance 
in Liverpool, saying — 

" I send you my list of crack parts. What is 
your opinion of them ? 

' School for Scandal' ... ... Charles Surface. 

1 Heir at Law ' ... ... Dr. Pangloss. 

1 Old Heads and Young Hearts ' Lyttleton Coke. 

' She Stoops to Conquer ' ... Young Harlow. 

' The Rivals ' ... ... Bob Acres. 

' London Assurance ' ... ... Charles Courtley. 

' Much Ado About Nothing ' ... Benedick. 

1 Bachelor of Arts ' ... ... Harry Jaspar. 

' Laugh When You Can ' ... Gossamer. 

1 The Marble Heart ' . . . ... Raphael. 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 19 

'Camille' ... ... ... Armand. 

' The Wife ' . . . ... ... St. Pierre. 

4 The Lady of Lyons ' . . . ... Claude Melnotte. 

' Used Up,' ' Poor Pillicoddy,' ' Twenty Minutes 
with a Tiger,' < The Morning Call,' ' Two Can Play 
at That Game,' ' Trying it On,' ' My Aunt,' and 
' Delicate Ground.' 

"Have 'The Marble Heart' and 'Camille' 
been much played in Liverpool ? My idea would 
be to have the Eoyal at so much a week, and work 
matters in my own way." 

Fate willed that this scheme should only exist 
on paper. The management venture was a failure, 
and poor Sothern was compelled to write — 

" I've had an awful season, . . . and this time 
I've had a sickener." 

Of his experiences in these early days Sothern, 
with his keen sense of humour, had, of course, in 
after-life, many amusing stories to tell, of which 
the following is an example : An actor was playing 
the part of a prisoner in a dungeon, and, in order 
to make his escape, had concealed in his dress a 
file about eighteen inches long. He had filed off 
his handcuffs and shackles, and through his prison 



20 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

bars, and had leapt on to the stage, when the 
king's carbineers made their appearance, and 
pointed their muskets at him, the business of the 
piece being that he was to be shot dead in full 
view of the audience. The word " Fire ! " was 
given, and followed by half a dozen feeble and 
harmless " clicks," the property-man having for- 
gotten to " load " the guns. Here was a dilemma ! 
Without the death of the escaped prisoner the 
piece could not come to an end, and how was the 
unfortunate actor to commit the happy despatch ? 
Quick as lightning an idea, which surely proved 
that he had real dramatic genius, came into his 
mind. With a quick movement he thrust the 
ponderous file in the direction of his throat, at 
the same instant performing a kind of conjuring 
trick, which caused it to disappear, and then 
melodramatically exclaimed, "My God! I have 
swallowed the file ! " He then came down to the 
footlights, and, to the entire satisfaction of the 
audience, expired in great agony. 

Another anecdote, in which the notorious 
blunders of stage firearms had once more a part, 
he told of himself. He was playing with one of 



SOTHERtf ON THE STAGE. 21 

the famous tragedians of his day in that -lugu- 
brious but then popular drama, entitled, "Pau- 
line ; or, A Night of Terror," in which, it may 
be remembered, two men, resolved to fight to the 
death, confront each other in the last act over 
a table on which lie two pistols, the one loaded, 
the other empty and harmless. With their backs 
to the table the men select their weapons, then 
face each other, and shoot. Sothern was to take 
up the deadly instrument, and as he fired, the 
tragedian, with a splendid " back-fall," was to 
drop down, a corpse. Alas ! alas ! the pistols 
were equally innocent of anything that would 
cause a report, and Sothern in dismay saw the 
almost noiseless fall of the two triggers, followed 
by the tragedian still standing and staring at 
him in mute and hopeless dismay. In a moment 
Sothern became inspired, again presented the 
pistol, clicked the offending trigger, and, with 
all the force of a good pair of lungs, roared 
" BANG ! " The effect was instantaneous. The 
tragedian fell as if he had been shot through 
every vital part of his body, and the curtain came 
down to deafening applause. 



22 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

On another occasion, a young lady was playing, 
who, although a novice in acting, had a lovely 
voice of which she was proud, and always used 
on the stage, even though the occasion was in- 
opportune. She had been engaged to play a part 
in a melodrama, and had made it a sine qua non 
that she should introduce a song, and accompany 
herself on the piano. The director of the theatre, 
being obliged to go away on business, gave in- 
structions to the stage-manager that she was to 
do this wherever she thought best. She was 
playing the part of a persecuted maiden, pursued 
by brigands, when, in the midst of a highly- 
wrought dramatic scene, to the horror of every 
one on the stage and behind the scenes, she 
insisted upon a piano being discovered in the 
wilds of the forest. She dashed on with her hair 
streaming down her back, and after a strong 
declamatory speech expressive of the idea that 
she wished she were back amongst her early 
friends, she exclaimed, " Ah, I see that the 
brigands have left their piano in the woods, 
which reminds me of the song my brother taught 
me long ago." Whereupon, with marvellous 



SOTHERN ON" THE STAGE. 23 

complaisance, she revolved upon the music-stool, 
and proceeded to sing, " Home, Sweet Home." 

But I must, for the time being, abandon anec- 
dote, and return to Sothern at Laura Keene's 
theatre. Here, on October 18, 1858, was produced 
for the first time the piece known as " Our Ame- 
rican Cousin," by Tom Taylor. Much to his 
disgust, Sothern was cast for the subordinate 
character of Lord Dundreary, who was intended 
to be an old man, and who had only forty-seven 
lines to speak. At first he declined to play the 
part, but subsequently, on the condition that he 
should be permitted to re-write it on lines of his 
own, undertook it. Then he commenced putting 
into it everything he had seen that had struck 
him as wildly absurd. There was not, he used 
afterwards to declare, a single look, word, or act 
in Lord Dundreary that had not been suggested 
to him by people whom he had known since early 
boyhood. On the first night the part was by no 
means a success, — indeed, it was some two or three 
weeks before the public began to understand what 
an actor whose name had hitherto been identified 
with characters of a serious and even pathetic 



24 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

type meant by this piece of mad eccentricity. 
But, once comprehended, Lord Dundreary s popu- 
larity was a thing assured, and very soon he 
made a not very interesting or brilliant play one 
of the greatest attractions that the American 
stage had ever known. Everything about the 
part — the famous make-up, the wig, the whiskers, 
and the eye-glass, the eccentric yet faultless 
costumes, the lisp and the stutter, the ingenious 
distortion of old aphorisms — were the outcome 
of Sothern's own original thought. Only one 
thing connected with the impersonation' — the 
quaint little hop (that odd " impediment in the 
gait," which became as much part and parcel of 
his lordship as the impediment in his speech) — 
was the result of accident. At rehearsal one cold 
day, Sothern, who was ever of a restless dispo- 
sition, was endeavouring to keep himself warm 
by hopping about at the back of the stage, when 
Miss Keene sarcastically inquired if " he was 
going to introduce that in Dundreary?''' Among 
the bystanding actors and actresses this created 
a laugh, and Sothern, who at the time was out 
of temper with his part, replied in his gravest 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 25 

manner, " Yes, Miss Keene ; that's my view of 
the character." Having so far committed himself, 
he felt bound to go on with it, and finding as the 
rehearsal progressed that the whole company, 
including the scene-shifters, were convulsed with 
laughter, he at night made capital out of a modi- 
fied hop. Months grew into years while Lord 
Dundreary reigned supreme upon the American 
stage, and English playgoers were almost weary- 
ing of waiting for this most original of stage 
creations, when it was modestly enough an- 
nounced that on November 11, 1861, Mr. 
Sothern, " formerly of the Theatre Royal, Bir- 
mingham, and from the principal American 
theatres," would make his first appearance at the 
Haymarket, in a character which he had already 
played for upwards of eight hundred times. In 
theatrical circles the experiment was, oddly 
enough, considered to be a most dangerous one, 
and it was only because the Haymarket was sadly 
in need of an attraction that Sothern got a chance 
of appearing on its historic boards. Lord Dun- 
dreary, it was said, had become popular in New 
York because the American theatre-goers of those 



26 EDWARD ASKEW S0TFIERN. 

days revelled in a gross and insulting caricature 
of an English nobleman ; in London the perform- 
ance would, no doubt, be condemned as entirely 
wanting in humour, taste, and judgment. That 
Sothern himself was uncertain about it the follow- 
ing incident will prove : During the rehearsal of 
the play one of the oldest members of the Hay- 
market company came upon the stage while he 
was running over his famous letter scene. He 
turned, and said, "My dear madam, don't come 
on here till you get your cue. In fact, on the 
night of the performance, you will have twenty 
minutes to wait during this scene." 

" Why,"- said the lady, satirically, " do you 
expect so much applause ? " 

" Yes," replied Sothern ; " I know how long 
this scene always plays." 

" Ah ! " answered the actress, " but suppose 
the audience should not take your view of the 
matter ? " 

" In that case," said Sothern, " you won't 
have to bother yourself, for I and the piece will 
have been condemned a good hour before your 
services will be required." 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 27 

Sothern's misgivings with regard to a venture 
upon which so much depended had been more 
openly expressed in a letter which, before leaving 
America, he wrote to a friend in England : — 

" I have received a point-blank offer," he said, 
" from the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, 
and, conditionally, have accepted, to open in 
October next. I commence as Lord Dundreary. 
Every one foretells a hit ; but I am doubtful. The 
whole past seems like a dream to me. Who 
(when I first played Beverley as an amateur) ever 
imagined that I should take to the stage as a 
profession — come over to America, remain nine 
years, and return to ' star ' in London ! " 

What a terrible "first-night" to the anxious 
actor that initial performance of " Our American 
Cousin " on the London stage must have been ! 
All the actors and actresses of the Haymarket 
company, including Buckstone, who played Asa 
Trenchard (a part that never suited him), Chippen- 
dale, Rogers, Clark, Braid, Mrs. Charles Young, 
Miss M. Oliver, Miss H. Lindley, and Miss Hen- 
rade, predicted the certain failure of the piece and 
its principal performer; but Sothern attacked his 



28 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

work boldly, and although the piece did not make 
an immediate success, the humour and originality 
of his acting were universally acknowledged. 

It was, indeed, some time before " Our American 
Cousin " (which is, in truth, but a poor play) 
drew remunerative audiences, and, in despair of 
its ever doing so, Buckstone had actually put up 
notices announcing that it would be immediately 
replaced by " She Stoops to Conquer," when 
Charles Mathews, who had seen and well knew 
how to appreciate Sothern's admirable acting, 
strongly advised him to keep it in the bill, de- 
claring that Lord Dundreary had only to become 
known to be phenomenally popular. How right 
in his judgment Mathews was the sequel proved. 
The fame of his lordship spread far and near ; the 
success of the performance became as great as it 
was then unprecedented, and for four hundred 
consecutive nights the Haymarket was crowded 
with eager, delighted, and uproariously mirthful 
audiences. Well might Sothern in those days 
look back with pride to the perseverance and faith 
in himself that had upheld him through so many 
struggles and disappointments, and which had at 



S0THERN ON THE STAGE. 29 

length given him the realization of his most 
sanguine hopes. 

It may here be worth while to glance at the 
other London playhouses, and take note of the 
programmes with which " Our American Cousin " 
had to compete. At Drury Lane Miss Avonia 
Jones was playing in " Medea ; " at the Adelphi 
the Boucicaults were to be seen in " The Colleen 
Bawn ; " at the Princess's Fechter had just pro- 
duced " Othello ; " at the Lyceum Falconer's 
" Peep o' Day " was the attraction ; at the Olympic 
the unrivalled Eobson was acting to enthusiastic 
and enthralled audiences ; at the St. James's Miss 
Herbert, Miss Kate Terry, and Mr. Alfred Wigan 
were appearing in " The Isle of St. Tropez ; " at 
Sadler's Wells Mr. Phelps's artistic revival of 
" The Winter's Tale " was being given ; and at 
the Strand " Johnnie " Clarke, " Jimmy " Rogers, 
and Marie Wilton, brightest and best trio of all 
burlesque performers, were making the little house 
ring with merriment in the travesty called " Es- 
meralda." A small number of theatres these, in 
comparison with the long list with which we are 
to-day familiar ; but, surely, a goodly selection of 



30 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

plays, and a notable group of performers, whose 
names the history of the stage will not allow to 
die ? Above them all, however, Sothern rose pre- 
eminently, and for many months the Hay market 
was the head centre of theatrical attraction. 

It must have been very gratifying to the 
actor to find that Lord Dundreary was at once 
understood by English folk. There was no 
suggestion of bad taste ; the impersonation, 
extravagant though it undoubtedly was, was 
not considered foolish ; it excited laughter, it 
gained applause, it interested as much as it 
amused, and it became the rage not only of 
London but of England. Dundreary was upon 
the lips of every one. Men cultivated Dundreary 
whiskers and affected Dundreary coats ; * indeed, 
at that time, Sothern was such a good friend 
to the tailors that, if he would have accepted 
them, he might have been furnished, without 

* Mr. E. H. Sothern still possesses, and it need hardly be 
said, prizes, the long frock-coat which, on the occasion of the 
firtst performance of " Onr American Cousin " in America, his 
father borrowed from Mr. Boucicault for the use of Lord 
Dundreary. The name of " Boucicault " is affixed to this, the 
original of a since world-famous garment. 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 31 

any mention of payment, with clothes sufficient 
for a dozen lifetimes. His dressing-room at 
the Haymarket was crowded with parcels sent 
by energetic haberdashers, who knew that if 
by wearing it upon the stage he would set the 
fashion for a certain make of necktie, or a par- 
ticular pattern of shirt-cuff, or collar, their fortunes 
would be half made ; and hatters and bootmakers 
followed in the haberdashers' wake. Dundreary 
photographs were seen everywhere ; " Dundreary- 
isms," as they came to be called, were the 
fashionable mots of the day; and little books 
(generally very badly done) dealing with the 
imaginary doings of Dundreary under every 
possible condition, and in every quarter of the 
globe, were in their thousands sold at the street 
corners. Concerning Dundreary quite three 
parts of England went more than half mad, 
and not to know all about him and his 
deliciously quaint sayings and doings was to 
argue yourself unknown. 

The actor who not only caused but sustained 
all this excitement must have achieved some- 
thing far greater than the mere creation of a 



32 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

new type of " stage swell." Dundreary was a 
study for the philosopher, as well as a laughing- 
stock for the idler, and he thus became popular 
with all classes of the community. Summing 
him up in his tersely odd way, the American 
dramatic critic who signs himself " Nym Crinkle " 
said, " Mr. Sothern's conception of the part of 
Dundreary, if not an inspiration, shows inherent 
originality. The type itself is new. It is the 
elaboration of a negation. Dundreary is an 
intellectual nonentity. It is as if the actor had 
set about to show us the rich fulness of a 
vacuum. But even a negation becomes eloquent 
when all the faculties of the artist are directed 
upon it. And histrionism here shares the 
victory of philosophy, which spends centuries 
of learning to prove that nothing IS. Here- 
tofore the stage has not been destitute of amusing 
asses. Asininity, in fact, always played a promi- 
nent part in comedy. But when did we ever see 
a player devote himself to the elucidation of its 
mysteries with this exhaustive skill and patience ? 
At best the fool was portrayed by empty fooling, 
no one seeming to think it a serious matter to 



SOTHERN OX THE STAGE. 33 

be brainless ; and how acceptable the mere 
physical exposition of stupidity was to the public 
the serene idiot in * Humpty Dumpty ' fully 
demonstrated, by grinning vacuously at them 
for two years. But Mr. Sothern conceived the 
idea of an elegant ass, perfect in all his imper- 
fections, rich in the absence of brains, coherent 
in his incoherency, and polished in the proof 
of his stupidity. More than this, he undertook 
to show us the internal character of it ; the very 
workings of the addled intellect ; and it was 
possible to put our finger with accuracy on the 
weak spots in his head whenever we got through 
laughing. Dundreary lacks the logical faculty, 
and in the showing humour steps in gracefully. 
When he reads his brother Sams letter, which 
informs him that Sam has discovered that his 
old nurse is his mother, Dundreary brings all his 
faculties to bear upon his own interest in the 
matter, and tries to discover who his mother will 
be if this is true. But he cannot make a deduc- 
tion. Any effort of his mind to be sequential 
involves him in inextricable confusion. He uses 
his fingers as aids. His thumb represents Sarns 

3 



34 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

mother ; his forefinger is his own mother ; and 
then he catches sight of the remaining fingers, 
and away go his faculties. Whose mothers 
are they ? This is foolishness, but rational fool- 
ishness, after all, because we see the spring of it. 
There is also this significance in Dundreary — that 
he represents the possibility of a state of society 
in which nothing is preserved to the individual 
but personal vanity of appearance. The satire 
is doubtless overdrawn, but it anticipates the 
fashionable man whose artificial tastes have eaten 
up his natural faculties. Mr. Sothern's success 
is not flattering to the few comedians who have 
endeavoured to show by direct means how 
estimable frankness and common sense are — for 
he has better shown it by his antithesis, and his 
delicious dolt has seasoned for long keeping a 
very trashy play. Above all, he shows the true 
comedy talent — the power of getting inside a 
character, and making it talk and act according 
to its nature. " 

After this I may appropriately quote an Eng- 
lish critic's judgment on the first appearance of 
Lord Dundreary at the Haymarket. " Whether/' 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 35 

said the Athenceum of November 16, 1861, "the 
character by itself would sustain any degree of 
interest, we much doubt ; but in the hands of 
Mr. Sothern, the gentleman who has been acting 
in it for so many hundred nights over the water, 
it is certainly the funniest thing in the world. 
The part is abstractedly a vile caricature of an 
inane nobleman, intensely ignorant and extremely 
indolent. The notion once accepted by the 
audience that such an absurd animal could be 
the type of any class whatever, the actor was free 
to exaggerate to any extent the representation of 
the ridiculous. Mr. Sothern, in the quietest way, 
takes full advantage of his position, and effectually 
subdues the audience to his mood. Laughter, at 
all times irrepressible, finally culminates in a 
general convulsion, which to our ears seemed 
quite a peculiarity — it was so strange, and yet so 
natural. The occasion was simply the reading 
of a letter from a brother in America, containing 
literally nothing more than he feared a former 
letter had miscarried from his having forgotten 
to direct it. This, with certain inane comments 
on its contents, sufficed to enable Mr. Sothern to 



36 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

produce the prodigious effect we have indicated. 
We are therefore disposed to believe that Mr. 
Sothern, as an eccentric actor, is a man of no 
ordinary genius, and reasonably desire his further 
acquaintance. " 

Nothing pleased Sothern better than to meet 
with people who did not look upon Dundreary as 
an absolute fool. His lordship was, it will be 
remembered, remarkably shrewd in all matters 
that were likely to affect his pocket ; he had no 
idea of being in any way or by any one taken in ; 
and even his twisting about of familiar proverbs, 
ridiculous as it was, had in it a certain amount of 
nai've common sense. On that point Sothern 
said — 

" Now, see how easily this thought, which 
has been frequently cavilled at as too nonsensical 
for an educated man, was suggested. A number 
of us were, years ago, taking supper in Halifax 
after a performance, when a man entered the 
room, and, looking at us, said, ' Oh, I see ! Birds 
of a feather ! ' I instantly saw the weak side of 
this fragment of a well-known maxim, and 
winking at my brother actors, and assuming 



S0THERN ON THE STAGE. 37 

utter ignorance, I said, * What do you mean 
by birds of a feather ' ? He looked rather 
staggered, and replied, ' What, have you never 
heard of the old English proverb — " Birds of a 
feather flock together " ? ' Every one shook his 
head. He then said, ' I never met such a lot of 
ignoramuses in my life.' That was my cue, and 
I began to turn the proverb inside out. I said to 
him, ' There never could have been such a 
proverb — birds of a feather ! The idea of a 
whole flock of birds having only one feather ! 
The thing is utterly ridiculous. Besides, the poor 
bird that had that feather must have flown on one 
side ; consequently, as the other birds couldn't fly 
at all, they couldn't flock together. But even 
accepting the absurdity, if they flocked at all they 
must flock together, as no bird could possibly be 
such a d — d fool as to go into a corner and try 
and flock by himself.' Our visitor began to see 
the force of the logic, and was greeted with roars 
of laughter. I made a memorandum of the 
incident, and years afterwards elaborated the idea 
in writing Dundreary. I have quires upon quires 
of memoranda of a similar character ; but when- 



38 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

ever I play the part the public seem so dis- 
appointed at not hearing the old lines, that I fear 
I shall never have the opportunity of getting them 
to accept what would really be a much better 
version." 

Even as it was, " Our American Cousin " 
bristled with deliciously quaint " Dundreary isms," 
as, take, for example, his lordship's remark when 
Asa Trenchard asked him if he had "got any 
brains ? " " He wants to find out if I've got any 
brains, and then he'll scalp me ; that's the idea ! " 
Or again, when Dundreary, after copious potations 
of brandy-and-soda, is alone in his bedroom and 
says, u Everything seems wobbling about. I 
know as well as possible there are only two 
candles there, and yet I can't help seeing four. 
I wonder, if I was to put those two fellows out, 
what would become of the other two?" And then, 
when Asa comes in and suggests they shall " have 
the liquors up and make a night of it," Dundreary 
replies, "Make a night of it? Why, it is night! 
It's just twelve o'clock." 

In the scene which he has with his valet 
Buddicombe, after the latter's dismissal, Dundreary 



SOT HERN ON THE STAGE. oU 

shows a keen sense of humour. Buddlcombe has 
asked for a character, when the following conver- 
sation takes place : — 

Dun. I'll tell you the best plan. You write your own 
character, and I'll put my name to it. It will save us both a 
good deal of anxiety. 

Bud. Thank you, my lord. That will suit me exactly. 
Oh, my lord, I have to thank you for the two waistcoats yon 
were kind enough to give me, but unfortunately they are 
too small for me. 

Dun. Well, give them to your mother. 

Bud. Oh, I took the liberty of putting them back into 
your lordship's wardrobe. 

Dun. I don't want to carry on a conversation all day. 
Go away. You're a nice person, but I've had enough of you. 

Bud. Yes, my lord. I put the waistcoats back, and I 
took instead two coats. 

Dun. This is getting funny ! Oh ! You've taken a 
couple of coats, have you ? 

Bud. Yes, my lord. I thought you wouldn't mind the 
exchange. 

Dun. Oh no, I rather like it ! New ones, I hope. 

Bud. I can't say they're quite new, my lord, because I've 
worn one and my brother has worn the other. 

Dun. Hadn't you better let your uncle have one ? 

Bud. That's very curious, my lord. He's had one ! 

Dun. Oh ! I'm glad you've made the old man happy ! 
Have you taken many trousers ? 

Bud. Not yet, my lord. 

Dun. Oh, not yet ! Will you be kind enough to look them 
over, and if they don't fit we'll have them altered for you. 

Bad. Really, my lord, this is more than I expected. 



40 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN\ 

Dun. It's a great deal more than I expected. Will you 
have the goodness to fetch me a policeman ? 

Bud. Yes, my lord. Will one be sufficient ? 

Dun. What a splendid fool this fellow is ! Oh, you can 
bring me one and a quarter if you like ! 

From the scenes between Dundreary and 
Georgina one may almost quote at random : — 

Dun. It's a pretty flower, — if it were another colour. 
One fellow likes one colour, and another fellow likes another 
colour. Come, you know what I mean ? (Gteorgina shakes 
her head.) Yes, you do. I don't — but you do. I mean it's 
one of those things that grows out of a flower-pot, — roots, — 
mud, — and all that sort of thing. Oh, talking of mud 
reminds me I want to say something. It's rather awkward 
for one fellow to say to another fellow, — the fact is, I've made 
up my mind to propose to some fellow or other, and it struck 
me I might as well propose to you as anybody else. (Georgina 
turns slightly away from him.) I mean sooner, of course. 
I only said that because 1 was nervous, — any fellow naturally 
does feel nervous when he knows he's going to make an ass 
of himself. Talking about asses, I've been a bachelor ever 
since I've been so high, and I've got rather tired of that sort 
of thing, and it struck me if you'll be kind enough to marry 
me I shall be very much obliged to you. Of course, if you 
don't see the matter in the same light, and fancy you'd rather 
not, — why, I don't care a rap about it ! (She turns aside, 
looking amazed.) I've got it all mixed up somehow or other. 
You see, the fact is, — hem — hem ! (Pause.) It makes a 
fellow feel awkward when he's talking to the back of a 
person's head. (She faces him.) Thank you, that's better : 
you'll find me a very nice fellow, — at least, I think so, — 
that is, what I mean is, that most fellows think me a nice 



SOTHEltN OX THE STAGE. 41 

fellow, — two fellows out of three would think me a nice 
fellow, — and the other fellow — the third fellow, — well, that 
fellow would be an ass. I'm very good-tempered, too; that's 
a great point, isn't it? You look as if you'd got a good 
temper ; but then, of course, we know that many a girl looks 
as if she'd got a good temper before she's married, — but after 
she's married sometimes a fellow finds out her temper's not 
exactly what he fancied. (He laughs suddenly .) I'm making 
a devil of a mess of it ! I really think we should be very 
happy. I'm a very domesticated fellow, — fond of tea, — 
smoking in bed, — and all that sort of thing. I merely name 
that because it gives you an insight into a fellow's character. 
You'll find me a very easy fellow to get along with, and after 
we've been married two or three w r eeks, if you don't like me 
you can go back again to your mother. 

Those who remember the play will readily 
recall the delightful exactitude with which each 
point in this extraordinary " proposal " speech was 
made. Those who do not will, perhaps, hardly 
appreciate it, for one cannot on paper convey the 
comical stutter, the quaint laugh, and the wonder- 
ful facial expression of the actor ; but they will 
probably see in it signs of the curious subtlety of 
the character that Sothern invented. 

Later on, in the scene in which Lieutenant 
Vernon asks Dundreary to use his influence to get 
him appointed to a captaincy, there occurs a delicious 
" Dundreary ism " : — 



42 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

Dun. I suppose you are all right in your lee scuppers ? 

Lieut. Lee scuppers ? 

Bun. Your mainbrace, larboard stove pipes, hatchway, 
helm-rudder, and all that sort of thing ? 

Lieut. Oh, — you mean, — can I pass my examination ? 

Dun. I don't mean anything of the sort. Of course you 
can pass it. The point is, can you get through it ? 

The joke of the dog wagging his tail because 
of his superior strength, and in order to prevent 
the tail wagging the dog, has become such a by- 
word that it need not be detailed here — though 
it is sometimes, I fancy, forgotten that its origi- 
nator was Dundreary. 

The letter from Sam (the immortal Sam who 
never had a " uel "), which used to be the great 
success of the evening, and which, delivered as 
it was, used to make people absolutely sore w^ith 
laughing, must be given, with the stage direc- 
tions, in extenso : — 

(Before opening letter read " N.B." outside it.) "N.B. — If 
you don't get this letter, write and let me know." That 
fella's an ass, whoever he is ! 

(Opens letter, taking care he holds it upside down.) I don't 
know any fella in America except Sam ; of course I know 
Sam, because Sam's my brother. Every fella knows his own 
brother. Sam and I used to be boys when we were lads, 
both of us. We were always together. People used to say, 
" Birds of a feather " — what is it birds of a leather do ?— oh, 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 43 

11 Birds of a feather gather no moss ! " That's ridiculous, that 
is. The idea of a lot of birds picking up moss ! Oh no ; 
it's the early bird that knows its own father. That's worse 
than the other. No bird can know its owu father. If he 
told the truth, he'd say he was even in a fog about his own 
mother. I've got it — it's the wise child that gets the worms ! 
Oh, that's worse than any of them ! No parent would allow 
his child to get a lot of worms like that ! Besides, the whole 
proverb's nonsense from beginning to end. Birds of a feather 
flock together: yes, that's it! As if a whole flock of birds 
would have only one feather! They'd all catch cold. Besides, 
there's only one of those birds could have that feather, and 
that fella would fly all on one side ! That's one of those 
things no fella can find out. Besides, fancy any bird being 
such a d — d fool as to go into a corner and flock all by 
himself ! Ah, that's one of those things no fella can find 
out. {Looks at letter.) Whoever it's from he's written it 
upside down. Oh no, I've got it upside down ! I knew some 
fella was upside down. {Laughs.) Yes, this is from Sam ; 
I always know Sara's handwriting when I see his name on 
the other side. " America." Well, I'm glad he's sent me his 
address ! " My dear brother." Sam always calls me brother, 
because neither of us have got any sisters. 

"I am afraid that my last letter miscarried, as I was in 
such a hurry for the post that I forgot to put any direction 
on the envelope." Then I suppose that's the reason I never 
got it ; but who could have got it ? The only fella that 
could have got that letter is some fella without a name. 
And how on earth could he get it ? The postman couldn't 
go about asking every fella he met if he'd got no name ! 

Sam's an ass ! " I find out now " (I wonder what he's 
found out dow?) "that I was changed at my birth." Now, 
what d — d nonsense that is ! Why didn't he find it out 
before ? " My old nurse turns out to be my mother." What 



44 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERtf. 

rubbish ! Then, if that's true, all I can say is. Sam's not my 
brother, and if he's not my brother, who the devil am I ? 
Let's see now. Stop a minute (pointing to forefinger of left 
hand). That's Sam's mother, and that's (the thumb) Sam's 
nurse. Sam's nurse is only half the size of his mother. 
Well, that's my mother (points to second finger on left hand, 
He finds he can't get that finger to stand up like the rest — the 
thumb and forefinger — as he closes the third and little finger). 
I can't get my mother to stand up. Well, that's my mother 
(holds up forefinger of right hand; in the meantime he has 
opened all the fingers of the left hand). Hullo, here's a lot 
of other fella's mothers ! Well, as near as I can make out, 
Sain has left me no mother at all ! Then the point is, who's 
my father ? Oh, that's a thing no fella can find out ! 

Oh, here's a P.S. " By the bye, what do you think of 
the following riddle ? If fourteen dogs with three legs each 
catch forty-eight rabbits with seventy-six legs in twenty- 
five minutes, how many legs must twenty-four rabbits have 
to get away from ninety-three dogs with two legs each in 
half an hour ? " 

Here's another P.S. "You will be glad to know that 
I have purchased a large estate, somewhere or other on the 
banks of the Mississippi. Send me the purchase money. 
The enclosed pill-box contains a sample of the soil ! " 

Though in all the public announcements of 
" Our American Cousin " the play was stated to 
be the sole work of Tom Taylor, in a manu- 
script copy of it which is now before me, it is 
clearly set down that "the character of Lord 
Dundreary " was " written and created by Mr. 
Sothern." In the handwriting of the actor this 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 45 

book is full of instructions which show that, 
easily as he always acted, he was ever anxious 
concerning the proper "making of his points," and 
the improvement of the play. In the scene 
between Dundreary and his valet from which 
I have quoted, he says, " Warn Buddicombe to 
play well down the stage, to speak very clearly, 
and wait till every laugh is followed hy a dead 
silence." Of one of the Georgina scenes he notes, 
" Every line of this scene is a roar, but it is not 
long enough ; " and of an encounter with Asa, 
albeit it was his own work, he remarks, " This 
scene is as bad as it can be." Before the famous 
reading of the letter, he enjoins, " Extreme 
silence during Mr. Sothern's scene, 1 ' and after it 
he admits, " Once my letter is read, the rest of 
the piece sinks down." 

Sothern was incessantly at work altering, 
cutting, adding to, and elaborating his parts. 
His son, Mr. E. H. Sothern, has entrusted me 
with another and later copy of " Our American 
Cousin," which is full of notes, and which is, in 
his opinion, the most interesting of the copies 
that exist. Here we find a note to the effect that 



46 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERtf. 

the actors who are performing in the piece are to 
be warned that " no eyeglass or side whiskers are 
to be worn " (the reason for this is obvious), and 
that " the people are to play quick until the 
entrance of Dundreary ." " Every one in evening 
dress ; gentlemen do not wear gloves," is the 
heading in Sothern's handwriting to the first act. 
This was the prompt copy used on English and 
American provincial tours, and no doubt the 
faultlessly-dressed Dundreary had on more than 
one occasion been shocked at the solecisms of the 
country actors cast for Sir Edward Trenchard, 
and Captain de Boots. Such an instruction as 
this would not be taken amiss. " Not to wear 
gloves " would not be expensive. It is when an 
exacting star expects the poorly paid actor who 
supports him to dress up to his standard that 
anxiety comes in. Sothern, in his own hand- 
writing, gives the following wild letter from 
young Edward Trenchard (it was he, it will be 
remembered, who introduces Cousin Asa to his 
English relatives) to his father : " I am delighted 
with America — and the Americans. It is a grand 
country. I've travelled everywhere ; I've shot 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 47 

alligators in the South ; killed buffalo in the 
West ; been hunting in Minnesota with a party 
of Crows six feet high ; and am now resting in 
this lovely place, enjoying the pure air, and 
whipping the trout streams of Vermont." Then 
follows a scene by Sothern, in which, in a far 
shorter time than Tom Taylor took about it, 
the story of the Mary Meredith relationship with 
the Trenchards is told, and the expected arrival 
of Asa is discussed. In this connection the 
cautious Sothern, evidently with an eye on 
provincial American audiences, makes Florence 
Trenchard say, " Stop ! I won't hear another 
word against him ! The Americans are a brave 
and earnest people, and it is absurd to suppose 
that they all speak through their noses, perpetually 
drink chain-lightning, or slap everybody on the 
back and call you ' Old Hoss ! ' To which Sir 
Edward replies, " Why, what American novels 
have you been reading, Florry ? You're quite 
enthusiastic ! " and the daughter discreetly 
answers, " Nay, papa dear ; I'm merely just." 
A little later on, Dundreary, pointing to the 
outrageously dressed A sa, says to Mrs. Mount- 



48 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN'. 

chessington, " Is that the American ? " and 
when she answers " Yes," he asks, " What 
made him come in disguise ? Sam says they've 
got nothing but blankets and rings through their 
noses." So Sothern's consummate tact showed 
him how to round off corners that might, under 
certain conditions, prove troublesome. 

In the second act of this copy there is another 
scene between Dundreary and his valet. Buddl- 
combe is brushing his master's hair while the latter 
lazily looks through the advertisements in a news- 
paper, and the following ridiculous conversation 
takes place : — 

Bun. (reading). "WANTED. — A baby to bring up in a 
bottle " 

Bud. Oh ! by the bottle, my lord 

Bun. Buy it ? What, with the baby in it ? Nonsense ! 
I don't want any bottled babies. 

Bun. (reading). " TEETH. — Teeth taken out with 
pleasure and comfort, by the aid of laughing gas." Bud- 
dicombe, you must have some laughing gas. 

Bud. But I don't require any, my lord. 

Bun. Well, but you must have it, for me to see the 
operation 

Bud. My teeth are all sound, my lord ; and I've got 
thirty- two. 

Bun. Then you've got too many ; no fellow wants thirty- 
two teeth — they're only in the way. Three or four are quite 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 49 

enough for a fellow like you. (Beading) "WANTED.— 
Wanted at school — two thrashing machines." 

Bud. At school ? No, no, my lord. Wanted at Scole. 
Scole is a small town in Norfolk. 

Dun. I'm not an ass. I know that ! Have you ever been 
to Scole — I mean school ? 

Bud. Yes, my lord, certainly. 

Dun. Any thrashing going on while you were there ? 

Bud. I received nothing but good marks, my lord. 

Dim. Have you got any of them now ? 

Bad. I have prizes, my lord. I was top boy in my school. 

Dun. It must have been a jolly old school, then. Oh ! 
(reading) listen to these fellows ! They ought to be in a 
lunatic asylum ! " WANTED : SHOOTING !— Two gentle- 
men require shooting every day for a month." What d'ye 
think of those fellows ? Buddicombe, I'll lend you a gun, 
and you can have a pop at those fellows all next week. 

Bud. I'm afraid that sort of sport wouldn't suit the 
Lientlemen. 

Dun. Never mind, it might please you / 

Bud. If I did such a thing, my lord, I should be 
hanged. 

Dun. Do you think you would ? Well, then — do it. 

And so on ad lib. 

In the third act, Buddicombe is warned that in 
his scenes with Dundreary he should " speak slowly, 
very clearly, and wait until every titter is over 
before he begins his speeches. His dress is frock- 
coat, white vest, dark trousers, high white collar, 
and dark necktie. Hat, and no gloves." This 

4 



50 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

glove question was evidently in some places a 
troublesome one. 

The long, rambling, incoherent story that 
Dundreary tells to Georgina, and which was 
always being altered, is here written in as 
follows : — 

" When Sam was a lad he was merely a baby 
— born, and everything like that, of course. He 
had a bald head too, and was greatly annoyed 
about it, — I don't mean annoyed about being bald, 
but about being born at all. What I mean is, — 
he put it this way, — there he was, and of course 
it was too late to alter the position. There was 
another fellow, — an old chum of Sam's, — and he 
was born too, — and he had a bald head too. There 
was a good deal of jealousy about that. This 
fellow was a baby about Sam's age. There was 
a good deal of bother about that. His mother 
asked my opinion about it, but I told her I didn't 
want to get mixed up in family matters. Well, 
that fellow died, and made himself very comfort- 
able in that sort of way, — and his cousin by another 
fellow's godmother married a girl that I was 
going to marry, — only I didn't get up, or some- 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 51 

thing like that, — my man didn't call me, — or 
something of that sort, — so she married this other 
fellow, — a very nice fellow he was, and I wanted 
to do him a good turn, and there it was. They 
were very happy and all that, — splendid mother- 
in-law and a large family, — about fourteen chil- 
dren, — made things very pleasant like that, — 
nearly all of them twins, — and they made me 
godfather to about a dozen of them. The wife 
was a very nice woman, with her nose a little on 
one side, — a lovely girl though. His nose was 
a little on one side, too, so it made everything 
pleasant like that. All the children's noses were 
on one side too. They were what you might 
call south-south-west noses. Fourteen noses 
looked very pleasant like that. Whenever I met 
them in the park it always struck me that if my 
fool of a man had only called me that morning, 
and I had married their mother, — I mean, if I'd 
been their father, — it was quite on the cards that 

their noses might have been a little But that's 

nothing to do with the anecdote. Well, one day 
he went a stroll with his mother-in-law, — a woman 
he hated like poison, — and they got shipwrecked, 



52 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

— had a very jolly time of it, — lived on a raft for 
about a fortnight, — lived on anything they could 
pick up, — oysters, sardines, — I don't exactly know 
what, — until at last they had to eat each other. 
They used to toss up who they should eat first, 
— and he was a very lucky fellow ; and when he 
was left alone with his mother-in-law, he tied her 
to the raft, — legs dangling in the water, and every- 
thing pleasant like that. Then he stuck a pen- 
knife in his mother-in-law, and cut her up in 
slices, and ate her. He told me that he enjoyed 
the old woman very much. He was a splendid 
fellow, — full of humour, — and full of mother-in- 
law, too." 

Of course, without the inimitable manner in 
which Sothern used to give utterance to it, this 
whimsical balderdash loses almost all its point ; 
but I hope that with me most of my readers will 
be able to recall this marvellously subtle and 
perfect impersonation. Not many, I think, will 
agree with the intelligent playgoer, who, having 
sat through a performance of " Our American 
Cousin," left the theatre saying that " Lord 
Dundreary was the worst played part in the 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 53 

piece, because the actor had such an unfortunate 
impediment in his speech." 

In the first copy of Tom Taylor's play of 
which I have made mention, there is a note by 
Sothern to the effect that a scene between Dun- 
dreary and Asa, at the end of the third act, is " as 
bad as bad can be." In the one of which I am 
now writing it is replaced by the following, in 
Sothern's own handwriting — 

Asa. How do you do, my lord ? 

Dun. Can't you see, I'm not doing anything. 

Asa. Nice place this. I suppose you own lots of farms 
like this — eh ? 

Dun. Well, I suppose I do. 

Asa. Do they raise much on this one ? 

Dun. Yes — sometimes. 

Asa. What? 

Dun. Money. 

Asa. Yes, — but do you raise wheat, and oats, and 
potatoes ? 

Dun. No, I don't ; but my tenants do. 

Asa. Of course you raise pigs ? 

Dun. Raise pigs? No. When I want exercise I raise 
dumb-bells. (Aside) This fellow's an idiot ! 

Asa. Look here, now. I want information. What do you 
feed your pigs on ? 

Dun. On the ground, of course ! Do you suppose I feed 
them up in a balloon ? 

Asa. No, no ; I mean, what do you give them to eat ? 



54 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

Dun. Grass, and corn, and sardines, — anything they fancy. 
I don't care what they eat. 

Asa. When you give them corn, do you use it in the ear ? 

Dun. Do I do what ? 

Asa. Give it them in the ear ? 

Dun. In their ears ? The fellow's mad ! What have the 
animals got mouths for if they're going to have their food 
rammed down their ears ? 

Asa. Blessed if I know if this fellow's a fool, or whether 
he's selling me. 

And much more to the same purpose, until such 
as in those days remained of the serious interest 
of the piece was resumed. 

In the fourth act there is little of interest, 
save an appeal to the company to " pay all their 
attention to the tag at the end of the piece," and 
a note near the conclusion of the reading of the 
famous Sam's letter to the effect that " Sir 
Edward and Florence must be ready to come on, 
in case Dundreary doesn't read P.SS." Which 
shows that encores may be missed, even in the 
best regulated of pieces. 

And so, through infinite painstaking, Dun- 
dreary became the established theatrical hero of 
the day. Every saying and every action of the 
apparently semi-idiotic creature was the result 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 55 

of careful observation and study; even the prepos- 
terous counting of the fingers was a transcript 
from what had been seen. " You remember," said 
Sothern, " that in one act I have a by-play on my 
fingers, in which I count from one to ten, and 
then, reversing, begin with the right thumb and 
count ten, nine, eight, seven, six, and five are 
eleven. This has frequently been denounced by 
critics as utterly out of place in the character, 
but I took the incident from actual, life, having 
seen a notoriously clever man on the English turf, 
as quick as lightning in calculating odds, com- 
pletely puzzled by this ridiculous problem." 

How " Our American Cousin " was revived, 
and re-revived on the Haymarket boards, and how, 
even when he was attracting large audiences with 
other plays, Sothern found it expedient to appear 
in little after-pieces in which Dundreary figured, 
is a matter of stage history. One of these farces 
(it was the joint work of Sothern and H. J. 
Byron, and in it all Tom Taylor's characters were 
absurdly burlesqued) was entitled, " Dundreary 
Married and Settled," and in connection with it 
an extraordinary but true story of a young man 



56 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN". 

who had mistaken his vocation is on record. " I 
was playing," said Sothern, " at the Theatre 
Royal, Edinburgh, in ' Dundreary Married and 
Settled.' Among the company was a young 
fellow who, although undeniably well-educated 
and a thorough gentleman, had been obviously 
and expressly made not to be an actor. He had 
ruined two or three scenes with me in pieces which 
we had previously performed, and I was forced to 
tell the stage manager particularly not to let him 
play Lieutenant Vernon. The manager, however, 
begged me to give the young fellow another 
chance, and I consented, at the same time re- 
marking, ' You'll find there will be another contre- 
temps, and the mischief to pay.' The lines he had 
to utter, when I gave him a certain cue, were as 
follows : ' That's a nice horse to lend a friend ; I 
never could ride. I have broken both his knees. 
Where is Georgina ? Upstairs? Heave ahead ! ' 
You can imagine the consternation of us all when, 
the time having arrived for him to ' go on,' he paid 
not the slightest attention to the cue, but listened 
intently at the keyhole, apparently absorbed in 
his own meditations, and softly whistling to him- 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 57 

self, 6 Still so Gently O'er Me Stealing.' What 
to do I did not know. I shrugged my shoulders 
and looked despairingly at the prompter, for there 
was a dead pause in the play, which was, to say 
the least of it, embarrassing. The prompter, a 
quick-tempered man, rushed round to the door, 
and you can imagine my feelings as the young 
fellow in an instant afterwards came half leaping, 
half falling on the stage, as frightened and amazed 
as if he had been shot out of a catapult. The 
prompter could not resist the temptation of an 
inviting attitude, and as Lieutenant Vernon stood 
bending over the keyhole, he received the full 
force of a heavy boot that greatly accelerated his 
motion. With a howl of agony, the young 
amateur exclaimed, ' My God ! What's that ? ' 
Not knowing the cause of this demonstration, 
I whispered to him, ' Come on, sir ; come on ! 
Quick ! ' Poor fellow, he had ' come on ' with 
a vengeance ; and this is what, in the confusion 
of the moment, he said : ' That's a nice girl to 
lend a friend : I never could ride. I have broken 
both her knees ! Where is the horse ? Upstairs ? 
Heave ahead ! ' That is one of the few times in 



58 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

my experience when I felt as if I had been shaken 
up by an earthquake." 

Another of these " wild whimsicalities," as 
Sothern called them, was entitled " Dundreary a 
Father," The one was as ephemeral as the other, 
and, amusing as both were, neither added much 
to the fame of Sothern or the popularity of 
Dundreary. 

In due course Dundreary tried his fortune in 
Paris, but there he did not make a success. 
French audiences failed to see the humour of the 
creation, and his lordship was slightingly alluded 
to by critics as " un sort de snob." It is interesting, 
however, to note that Henry Irving, Edward 
Saker, and John T. Eaymond were members of 
the company. Irving played the drunken lawyer's 
clerk, Abel Murcott, and, in connection with the 
luckless engagement, Raymond, who was the Asa 
Trenchard, has recorded a couple of good stories 
that prove that the failure of his venture by no 
means damped Sothern's elastic spirits. These 
stories should, perhaps, have their place in another 
chapter, but as they deal with Dundreary in 
Paris, they shall be told here. 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 59 

" You are, perhaps, aware," wrote the popular 
American comedian, " that at the subsidy 
theatres in France, no fire, not even a lighted 
match, is permitted on the stage. You will also 
recall the fact that in one part of the play Asa 
Trenchard has to burn a will. In order to comply 
with the law, and at the same time get rid of this 
document, I was compelled to tear the will instead 
of applying the match in the usual way. The 
result was that the part was not at all a success, 
much of its point being lost by the tameness of 
this incident. At last I said to Sothern, ' I have 
a great mind to burn the thing, anyhow, and take 
the chances.' My misfortune was in confiding 
my intention to Sothern, for he instantly gave 
instructions to one of the gendarmes who was 
hovering about the wings to arrest me in the 
act. When the scene came on, anticipating no 
trouble, but expecting, on the contrary, to receive 
a recall, as I always did at this juncture, I 
struck the match and lighted the paper. Before 
I knew anything else I was seized from behind 
by a big gendarme and carried bodily off the stage. 
Of course the audience did not know what was 



60 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

the matter, and I was equally in the dark. Not 
speaking French, I could not make any explana- 
tion, or ask any questions, and the more I 
struggled the tighter the gendarme held me in his 
grip. It was only when Mr. Sefton, the agent of 
Sothern, made his appearance and explained 
matters that I was released. You should have 
seen then how that French official, mad as a 
hornet at being imposed upon, went for Sothern, 
and the manner in which he disappeared down 
the back-stairs into a convenient hiding-place. 
Fortunately, Mr. Sefton was able to appease the 
indignation of the irate Frenchman, and in a few 
minutes Dundreary was permitted to come out of 
his retirement, and the play went on happily. 

" During this engagement," continued Ray- 
mond, " we had a frightful fight one night, and 
produced a perfect scare among the members of 

the company. , the celebrated bill-poster of 

Paris and London, was in the green-room, and 
made some remark as coming from Sothern 
concerning me which I purposely construed into 
a most grievous insult. Dashing impetuously 
into Sothern's dressing-room, which was just off 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 61 

the green-room, I demanded in a loud tone, that 
could be heard by everybody, instant satisfaction 
or his life, whispering to Sothern to keep up the 
joke. Always as quick as lightning to take a 
hint, he presently emerged, kicking me out of his 
apartment into the midst of the now thoroughly 
aroused people in the green-room. I rushed off 
to get a knife, swearing vengeance. Everybody 
appealed to me to be quiet, and tried to hold me 
back, while I contended that nothing but his life's 
blood would wipe out the insult. Of course the 
play had to continue, but the actors were almost 
afraid to go on the stage, looking on me as a wild 
American, who, with bowie-knife in hand, was 
about to commit a horrible murder. Meanwhile 
Sothern had quietly sent me a note telling me to 
slip into his dressing-room again, get some ' stage 
blood ' there, lock the door, and that as soon as 
he came off we would have a ' time.' I followed 
the instructions, and after the act he came down 
and joined me. The people in the green-room 
were on the alert, and between Sothern and 
myself we gave their listening ears the benefit 
of a full chorus of moans, groans, imprecations, 



62 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

struggles, and other sounds of distress, among 
which every now and then my knife could be 
heard sticking into some conveniently soft sub- 
stance that sounded very like a human body. 

, whose remarks had been the cause of all 

this commotion, frightened almost to death, 
rushed after the gendarmes. When the latter 
came they demanded entrance in French. A low 
groan was the only response. Believing that one 
or both of us must be nearly dead, they burst open 

the door. was the first man to rush in, and 

was followed by the officials and such of the 
company as were not on the stage. You can 
imagine their feelings when they saw Sothern 
and myself, covered with blood, lying upon the 
floor, with the gory knife near by, the entire 
apartment in confusion and bearing evidence of 
a desperate struggle. 

" ' Poor little ! ' said one, ' does his pulse 
beat ? ' ' He must be dying ! ' was the remark 
of another. ' Go for a stretcher.' ' What awful 
fighters these Americans are ! ' and other similar 
expressions were also to be heard. 

" , with a horror-stricken face, stooped 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 63 

over and touched Sothern, who partially raised 
his head, and feebly whispered, ' A glass of cham- 
pagne — quick ! ' This was immediately given 
him, and then I lifted my head, and in a faint 
kind of way ejaculated, ' Some wine, too ! ! Then 
we both rose up on our elbows and asked for 
more wine, and from that position to our feet, 
until finally, with a hearty laugh at the success 
of our joke, we invited the whole party to join 
us in a potation. The practical gendarmes did not 
see any fun in being ' sold ' in this manner, 
although they took their share of the champagne, 
and I think that some of the English actors them- 
selves never, to this day, have learned to appre- 
ciate the pranks of the two ' Americans.' ' 

In England — both in London and in the country 
— the popularity of Lord Dundreary seemed to 
be inexhaustible, and, notwithstanding the great 
successes that Sothern made in other pieces, " Our 
American Cousin " was constantly reproduced at 
the Haymarket, and in America, I believe, never 
lost its charm. Concerning one of the London 
revivals, the Times said — 

" There are some persons who enjoy, if not 



64 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

a perpetual, at least a remarkable youth. Such 
persons reappear among their friends after a few 
years' absence, and everybody is astonished to find 
how young they are looking, in impudent defiance 
of the parish registry of births. To the category 
of people thus privileged, that distinguished noble, 
Lord Dundreary, having attained in London the 
enormous age of nearly nine theatrical years " 
(it will be seen that this was one of the early 
revivals), " and thus aged himself into a tra- 
dition, unquestionably belongs. On the 11th of 
November, 1861, he made his first bow to the 
British public ; he floated gaily through the 
' exhibition year ' as one of the lions of that popu- 
lous period, and here he is, in 1870, looking as 
fresh as ever, drawing crowds to the Haymarket 
with as much attractive force as the newest novelty 
could command. 

"The fact must be taken into consideration 
that everything is new to those who have not 
seen it, and that to the travelling cockney who 
surveys the world from a subjective standpoint, 
the pyramids of Egypt are infinitely more modern 
than the Monument on Fish-street Hill. As there 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 65 

came a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph, so there 
has sprung up a race to whom Lord Dundreary 
is a figure of the past. The descendants of Joseph 
certainly derived no immediately perceptible 
benefit from the ignorance of the new Pharaoh ; 
but it might have been otherwise if Joseph 
himself had lived on, and Mr. Sothern enjoys 
the advantage of being the Joseph alike of the 
past and the present. 

" Be it remarked, however, that Lord Dun- 
dreary, although a pronounced aristocrat, is by 
no means an obstinate Conservative. He moves 
with the times, and, while he aims to please those 
who never saw him before, he laudably and 
successfully endeavours to retain his popularity 
with those to whom he has been long familiar. 
He drops many of his old jokes, and he intro- 
duces fresh pleasantries, verbal and practical, at 
pleasure, so that his oldest acquaintance behold 
and hear him doing and saying new things. 
Those who patronized him in 1861 did not then 
hear him sing the lyrical panegyric of his Brother 
Sam which now brings his first act to a mirthful 
conclusion, nor were they then made acquainted 

5 



66 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

with the somewhat pantomimic humour of the 
bedroom scene. The letter from the absent 
brother, of course, keeps its place as a piece de 
resistance, and is nightly encored some four or 
five times. For this freedom of interpolation and 
omission Mr. Sothern derives full scope from the 
utter badness of the piece which he illumines, 
' bright as a star when only one is shining in the 
sky.' The character of Lord Dundreary, though 
its details judiciously vary, holds its own as a 
unique creation." 

With Sothern this quaintly conceived and 
marvellously elaborated conception died. It is 
true that his clever and handsome son — poor 
Lytton Sothern — whose early death still leaves 
an unhealed sore in the memories of those who 
knew and cared for him, played the part with 
some degree of success ; but though the imitation 
was almost exact, an indescribable " something " 
was wanting, and one could not but feel that a 
" claimant" had arisen for a title that was extinct. 

Those early Haymarket days must have been 
a wonderful change to the still young actor, who, 
in English provincial towns and in America, had 



SOTHERX ON THE STAGE. 67 

fought so hard a fight. From the overworked 
member of the stock company, with any number 
of parts to study, and innumerable slights to 
submit to, to suddenly become the leading light 
of successive London seasons, with only one 
character to delineate, would have turned the 
head of many an actor ; but Sothern had the 
true stuff in him, and long before the phenomenal 
popularity of Dundreary showed the least sign 
of waning he was busy with other parts. The 
second character in which he appeared on the 
London stage was in a little piece which he 
had himself adapted from the French, and which 
he called " My Aunt's Advice ; " and this was 
followed by his clever impersonation of Captain 
Walter Maydenblush in " The Little Treasure " 
(an event made memorable in the annals of the 
English stage, inasmuch as it is associated with 
one of the earliest successes of Miss Ellen Terry, 
who was the fascinating little Gertrude of those 
days), and a species of monologue entertainment 
entitled " Bunkum Muller." In all of these he was 
good, and the production of the little pieces enabled 
critics to see that he was not merely a one-part 



68 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

player ; but they were only passing efforts which 
served to keep his hand in while the drawing 
powers of " Our American Cousin " were at their 
height. The question of a successor to that play 
was a subject for the most anxious deliberation. 
Sothern, himself, was most anxious to appear in a 
piece of a serious type (to the end of his days he 
never forgot his success — I believe that it was the 
one of which he was most proud — in u La Dame 
aux Camelias "), but his English friends advised 
him that for the present he could only be accepted 
as a " character " actor, and it was not until Tom 
Robertson appeared with his delightful version of 
" Sullivan," entitled " David Garrick," that a sort 
of compromise was effected. Sothern expected to 
make an enormous success out of the opportunities 
for earnest acting that the first and third acts 
afforded, and his well-wishers felt certain that 
he would do wonders with the subsequently 
world-famous scene of simulated intoxication. 

The history of this pleasant comedy, which still 
holds the stage, and out of which so much money 
has been made, is a curious one. Robertson's 
original adaptation was, according to Sothem's 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 69 

own account of it, a very rough one, and it was 
sold to a dramatic publisher for the modest sum 
of £10. No one feeling disposed to produce it, 
it was for a period of eight years " pigeon-holed," 
and it was through a chance conversation with 
the adapter, — and subsequently most brilliant of 
modern-day English dramatists, — that Sothern 
heard of the plot, took a fancy to it, and 
decided that Garrick should be the successor 
of Dundreary. Prior to its London production, 
the play was tentatively performed at the Prince 
of Wales Theatre, Birmingham ; and after it was 
over, Sothern, who was most keenly anxious about 
his new part, and never satisfied with his own 
acting, emphatically declared that the whole thing 
was a failure, and, as far as he was concerned, 
would never be heard of again. Luckily, his own 
judgment was overruled by that of his friends and 
advisers, and, as every playgoer knows, Garrick 
became one of the most successful of his imper- 
sonations. No doubt the wonderful drunken 
scene, clever in its conception and perfect in its 
detail, was the great feature of the piece ; but 
though some critics took exception to his acting, 



70 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

in the love-scenes with Ada Ingot, he gained in 
them a multitude of devoted admirers. Generally 
willing to accept the verdict of the press, Sothern 
was always rather sore with regard to this alleged 
defect in his performance, and I very well re- 
member how, on one occasion, when, on his benefit 
night in a provincial town, he made one of those 
little before-the-curtain speeches for which he 
was famous, he said, " The local critics have 
unanimously declared that, unfortunately for my 
career as an actor, my voice is wholly unsuited 
to ' love-making/ With some compunction, and 
with my hand appropriately placed on my heart, 
I should like to inform those gentlemen that, 
following in private life that most agreeable of 
pursuits, I find that I get on as well as most 
people ! " 

When " David Garrick " was first produced 
in London, Sothern (still thinking that he had 
made a failure) generously declared that the piece 
was saved by the exquisite acting of Miss Nellie 
Moore in the character of Ada Ingot; but long 
after that charming young actress was dead it 
drew enthusiastic audiences, and Mr. Charles 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 71 

Wyndham has recently shown that it still has 
abundant vitality. Other actors, and notably 
Mr. Edward Compton, have also successfully 
played this difficult but effective part. Sothern, 
however, was its creator, and, surely, his finished 
and most artistic performance will live in the 
history of the stage ? 

The next Haymarket production in which he 
appeared was a clever but not very long-lived 
play by Mr. Watts Phillips, entitled " The Woman 
in Mauve;" and then came a "happy thought." 
Although the popularity of Dundreary was by no 
means exhausted, it was, from a managerial point 
of view, very important that he should " rest " for 
awhile ; and who, with playgoers, could fill his 
place so suitably as that Brother Sam whose 
famous letter had been read so often, and whose 
name was already as familiar in their mouths as 
household words ? For this character Sothern 
had already found his type in a man who, while 
only possessed of some £400 a year, managed, 
without the remotest blemish on his name, to live 
at the rate of £5000 or £6000 a year. The task of 
writing the piece was entrusted to the late John 



72 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

Oxenford, and under the brightest of auspices 
Sam made his appearance on the Haymarket 
boards. Once more the ease and excellence of 
Sothern's acting, his faultless dress, and his 
effective " make up," were the talk of the town, 
and the interest in the new character was in- 
geniously kept alive by reason of the cleverly 
conceived contrast between the appearance and 
personal traits of the stage brothers. 

The elegant and deliberate Dundreary was as 
dark as hair-dye could make him, and the impedi- 
ment in his speech had been more than half his 
fortune : the Hon. Sam Slingsby was as light in 
apparel, complexion, and bearing as a feather from 
a dove's wing, while in speech he was as rapid as 
ever was the voluble Charles Mathews in farces of 
the type of " Patter versus Clatter." Sam's ready 
impudence and polished manner secured a host of 
friends and admirers, and once more genuine 
success was secured. 

But the younger brother could hardly expect 
to have as many devoted followers as the bearer of 
the family title, and, amusing company though he 
was, his popularity in due course waned, and in 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 73 

about twelve months' time he made way for Frank 
Annerly in Dr. Westland Marston's brilliant 
comedy, " The Favourite of Fortune." How good 
Sothern was in this part many will remember. 
The character was a happy medium between the 
handsome, sentimental heroes that he always 
wanted to represent, and the finished comedy 
studies in which he excelled. No doubt the 
audience liked Frank Annerly best when, in 
cynical mood, he dealt with the apparent faith- 
lessness of poor Hester Lorrington and the 
worldliness of her friends, and, with irresistible 
precision, made point after point in the clever 
dialogue of the piece ; but I am quite sure that 
Sothern enjoyed himself most when, at the end of 
the first act, he was the recipient of the cheers of 
the supernumeraries whom he was supposed, in 
the most dashing manner, to have rescued from a 
watery grave. Those cheers were (as such cheers 
always are) re-echoed by the audience, and, 
elated by them, Sothern, the greatest character 
delineator of his day, and then, on account of 
his great success, his own master, once more 
imagined himself the ideal stage-lover. 



74 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

And so it came about that, after an interval of 
nearly fifteen years, he again essayed the character 
of Claude Melnotte. 

In the peasant's dress, the handsome costumes 
of the supposed Prince of Como, and the uniform 
of the French Colonel, he looked the part to per- 
fection ; but, although on the occasion of the first 
performance (it was at the Theatre Koyal, Bir- 
mingham, for the benefit of his old friend, Mr. 
J. C. Smith, and Mrs. Kendal, then Miss Madge 
Robertson, was the most effective and fascinating 
of Paulines) the piece went admirably, and the 
applause at the end of each act was deafening, 
Sothern's acting fell far short of his conception of 
the character. It was a curious result, for he 
attacked the part with enthusiasm ; he longed for 
unqualified success, and he had (a rare thing in 
him) unlimited confidence in himself; but some- 
how the performance lacked the true ring. I 
cannot, perhaps, better show what was the one 
thing wanting than by saying that when, in the 
last act, with Pauline in his arms, he spoke the 
lines — 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 75 

u Look up ! Look up, Pauline ! for I can bear 
Thine eyes ! The stain is blotted from my name. 
I have redeem'd mine honour. I can call 
On France to sanction thy divine forgiveness ! 
Oh, joy ! Oh, rapture ! By the midoight watch-fires 
Thus have I seen thee ! thus foretold this hour ! 
And 'midst the roar of battle, thus have heard 
The beating of thy heart against my own ! " 

he delivered them (although I am convinced that 

he felt every word of them) in precisely the same 

fashion as when, in mock earnestness, he had, with 

slight alterations, to give utterance to them as 

Sir Hugh de Brass (one of his best parts) in the 

farce called " A Regular Fix." How wonderfully 

true, even after the lapse of these years, was the 

already quoted criticism of Charles Kean — 

" I thought your acting in ' Used Up ' very 
good indeed, but in Claude Melnotte it suggested 
itself to me that you occasionally ' preached ' too 
much, instead of giving vent to the impulse of 
the character." 

Strive though he did, Sothern was never able 
to make a real success in " The Lady of Lyons ; " 
but in the "Charles Mathews" characters to be 
found in such pieces as " Used Up " and " A 
Regular Fix," he was ever admirable. I re- 



76 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

member on that first appearance as Claude Mel- 
notte he did a thing that for some moments put 
in jeopardy the whole performance. In the 
second act, where Colonel Damas tests the mas- 
querading Prince of Como by addressing him in 
the Italian language, and Claude ought only to 
reply with a puzzled " Hem — hem," and " What 
does he mean, I wonder?" Sothern permitted 
himself to drop into his lightest manner, and 
even to indulge in some " Dundreary isms," saying, 
"Yes, that is d — d funny," and so on. The 
audience, recognizing the method of an old friend 
and favourite, roared with laughter, and it was 
some time before the rash actor could again secure 
hushed attention. 

Still believing himself to be a perfect Claude, 
Sothern persevered with the part, until a country 
critic, who meant to be both friendly and compli- 
mentary, said that until he had undertaken it no 
one had quite appreciated its humour ! This, as he 
himself said, was a " crusher," and, with a groan, 
the peasant's, the prince's, and the colonel's costumes 
were permanently consigned to the wardrobe. 

In December, 1866, Sothern appeared at the 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 77 

Haymarket as Harry Vivian, in a three-act 
comedy by Tom Taylor, entitled " A Lesson for 
Life." It was a pleasant part, which made no 
very great demand upon his powers, but in which 
he was able, even more conclusively than before, 
to prove that he, before all the actors of his day, 
was able to portray the easy manners of the 
perfect English gentleman. In speaking of this 
performance, an eminent critic said, " As an 
earnest student in his profession, Mr. Sothern 
has worked with a zeal which has rarely been 
excelled. The prominent characteristic of his 
style is the air of modern refinement with which 
he surrounds the personage represented. There 
is nothing conventional about his movements, 
nothing which belongs to the stilted mannerisms 
of the past school of histrionic art. We have the 
polished ease of good society faithfully illustrated, 
the reality of nature in place of the artificiality 
of the stage, and a life-like portrait painted in 
vivid colours as an acceptable substitute for the 
faded caricature which has too often passed 
current with hasty observers for the semblance 
of a gentleman." 



78 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERX. 

" A Lesson for Life " was followed by appear- 
ances as Robert Devlin in " A Wild Goose," and 
Albert Bressange in " A Wife Well Won ; " but 
though, concerning the latter piece, Sotbern (wbo 
strongly fancied bis part in it) wrote, " The 
Prince of Wales told me be was charmed with 
it," neither play ran long, and in neither did he 
materially add to his reputation. " A Wife Well 
Won " will, however, be vividly remembered by 
all who saw it, for in it Miss Madge Robertson, 
then on the threshold of her brilliant career, 
played its girlish heroine in a manner so capti- 
vating as to be absolutely irresistible. Sothern 
always used to speak of it as the most charming- 
impersonation he had seen. 

At about this time a play that would really 
hold the stage in " Our American Cousin," 
" David Garrick," or even " Brother Sam " 
fashion, was eagerly sought at the Haymarket, 
and after much deliberation a strong, and, as it 
proved, successful bid for popularity was made in 
the production of Dr. Westland Marston's adapta- 
tion of Mons. Octave Feuillet's " Roman d'un Jeune 
Homme Pauvre," entitled (Sothern, surely, had 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 79 

something to do with the selection of the English 
name ?) " A Hero of Romance." In this, as Victor, 
Marquis de Tourville, the energetic actor gained 
great popularity in the direction in which he had 
always aimed. Never was a more interesting 
personage than this ruined young Marquis, 
performing the duties of steward in the parvenu 
family of the haughty young lady of his love, 
seen upon the stage. What a thrill went through 
the audience when the gallant youth quitted the 
stage and ("off") conquered in a few moments 
the unheard-of vices of that singularly unmanage- 
able horse " Black Harry ; " what sympathy was 
accorded him when he submissively bore the 
taunts of proud and unyielding beauty ; what 
a sensation there was in the house when, in order 
to save his own honour and her reputation, he 
rushed " three steps at a time " up the ruined 
tower, and, by the light of a pale moon, recklessly 
flung himself from its dizzy height on to the 
yawning feather-bed in the unseen depths below ; 
and how copiously the tears fell when, exquisitely 
dressed in a perfectly fitting seal-skin trimmed 
coat, the like of which had never been seen before 



80 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

(and which no one but the Sothern of those days 
dare have worn), he burnt the will in the candle, 
dedicating the sacrifice to his past love, and 
subsequently receiving in the hand of the arrogant 
young lady the just reward of his manly virtue ! 
" A Hero of Romance " became the hero of his 
day, and when the piece was brought into the 
provinces young women lost their hearts to him, 
and young men, at penny readings, burnt fools- 
cap wills in inexpensive candles, but, since they 
had not facilities for the leap from the tower, and 
could not treat themselves to collars and cuffs of 
seal-skin, achieved only half success. I do not 
think that Victor, Marquis de Tourville, was the 
best thing that Sothern did in this way, but it 
was theatrically the most effective, and is, con- 
sequently, ranked amongst his list of triumphs. 

The next Haymarket production was "Home," 
the clever adaptation by his friend, Tom Robertson, 
of Emile Augier's " L'Aventuriere," and in it 
solid success was once more gained. As his part 
was not a " romantic " one, Sothern was very 
doubtful concerning it, but after its production 
he wrote, " * Home ' is a great hit — every one 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 81 

giving me far more praise than I deserve. I 
played so nervously the first night that I fully 
expected a cutting-up in the papers. However, 
the public is satisfied, and I always acknowledge 
the verdict it gives, pro or con" "Home" had 
a highly satisfactory run in London, and by his 
impersonation of Colonel John White, Sothern 
undoubtedly added to his laurels both in England 
and America. One of the great attractions of 
the piece was a " love-scene," of which Sothern 
subsequently claimed to be the author. Certainly 
— for it was to a certain degree written upon 
Dundreary lines — he played it to perfection. 

While this pretty play was at the height of 
its popularity there seemed to come the promise 
of great things. " I've a great part," he wrote. 
" I expect another Dundreary success in my next 
piece, which I shall try in Birmingham." This 
part was Sir Simon Simple, in H. J. Byron's 
" Not Such a Fool as He Looks." He did try it in 
Birmingham, and, wonderfully made up in a wig 
so flaxen that it was almost white, and presenting 
a clean-shaven and boyish face, with an entirely 
novel break in the voice that was as natural as 

6 



82 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

it was effective, he scored a splendid first night 
success. According to his wont, however, he was 
dissatisfied, and declared that both piece and part 
must be altered. This the author, having faith in 
his work, declined to do. " Byron demands ' Sir 
Simon Simple ' ' ' (it was, by the way, under this 
title that he produced the piece) " back again," he 
wrote a few weeks later on. " I'm not sorry, 
though it's a lot of work thrown away." How 
Byron himself made the part popular in London 
every one knows, and subsequently Sothern 
recognized the fact that he had thrown away a 
chance. Again, though later on, he wrote, "I 
am about to produce another comedy, s Birth,' by 
Tom Robertson. I've much faith in it, — a pretty 
plot, and my part peculiar and original." This 
he played in several provincial towns, and the 
audiences heartily endorsed his privately expressed 
opinion ; but although after the first performance 
he telegraphed, " ' Birth ' a genuine HIT," he 
again suffered from want of confidence, and 
abandoned a piece in which he would have 
probably achieved a lasting success. 

The next Haymarket production in which 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 83 

Sothern appeared was the two-act comedy b} r 
H. T. Craven (according to his custom this, too, 
had been previously tried in the provinces), entitled 
" Barwise's Book," and in it, for the first time 
since his great successes, he assumed what may 
fairly be called (although from first to last the 
piece, in tone and treatment, was comic) the 
character of " stage villain." The experiment is 
noteworthy, and deserves description. 

" In Charles Mulcraft" said a critic, " Mr. 
Sothern has a character somewhat different from 
any that he has hitherto attempted : his persona- 
tions have been usually of amiable if not excellent 
fellows — for even for Dundreary, selfish as he is, one 
cannot but entertain a certain sneaking kindness. 
Mulcraft, however, is a piece of cool and superficial 
selfishness, without a single spark of principle or 
generosity ; yet in manners and style a gentle- 
man, and quite unlike the common theatrical 
villain and plotter. He commits forgery as if 
there were no offence in it ; and as he sins with- 
out compunction, discovery brings to him regret 
at being discovered, without a shade of remorse 
for having sinned. The conception of such a 



84 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

character is decidedly original ; it loses nothing 
in being worked out by Mr. Sothern. To live a 
gay, easy, showy, idle life, of the pleasures of 
which he has a keen appreciation, is Mulcrafis 
best philosophy ; to obtain the means of so doing 
he is ready to sacrifice all the moralities, and 
without feeling or personally making any sacrifice 
in so doing. The end, if only it be attained, is to 
him complete justification of the means. He is a 
type — which might be worked up even more 
highly than the author has done in the present 
case — of the perfectly presentable nineteenth- 
century Bohemian ; the whited sepulchre of 
modern society — gorgeous without, but empty 
and contemptible within. He is not even a pro- 
fessor of virtue ; the substantiality of means, 
and an outer coating of respectability suffices 
him ; his soul, if he have a soul, is therewith con- 
tent. Mr. Sothern presents the shallow rogue — 
who never, to give him his due, pretends or 
attempts depth — with the fidelity of a photograph ; 
giving bare fact, without appeal to sympathy, 
either approbative or reprobatory. He is dressed 
in the extravagance of modern fashion — extra va- 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 85 

gance without vulgarity, except in so far as high 
fashion is always vulgar ; and one confesses, on 
seeing and hearing him for the two hours which 
the piece lasts, that — except that few even of such 
characters would go the length of forgery — the 
portrait is a fair reflection of many men of the 
time. His doings and character scarcely excite 
any emotion beyond a sort of amazed contempt ; 
he is a fellow to whom one would prefer giving a 
wide berth, but on whom moral indignation would 
be utterly thrown away. Mr. Sothern confines 
himself within the limits of the character with 
admirable self-command ; he is neither tempted on 
the one hand to lead us to despise Mulcraft by 
making him a cleverer villain than he is, nor on 
the other to excuse his villainy by making him 
more than superficially attractive. It is a part in 
which there is much more talent than meets the 
eye ; only an actor who has latent power of a very 
high order could afford to sink so much of it in 
the elaboration of a character so little stagey, yet 
so cruelly true to nature of an artificial order 
as this. Of course, every point is wrought up to 
perfection ; and the closeness with which the 



86 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

audience follows, shows how thoroughly they 
enjoy Mr. Sothern's admirably-finished acting." 

Clever as this new study was, " Barwise's 
Book " was too slight a piece for a prolonged ran, 
and another play, tried in the country, was a 
three-act comedy, by Messrs. Maddison Morton 
and A. W. Young, entitled " A Threepenny Bit," 
in which Sothern was well suited as a terribly 
nervous gentleman named Augustus Thrillington ; 
but this was only seen in London in condensed 
one-act form, under the new title of " Not if I 
Know It ! " At about this time, too, he reappeared 
(the part was always a favourite one with him, 
and right splendidly, in his handsome dress, he 
bore himself) as the amusing hero of " The Captain 
of the Watch ; " but the next important Hay- 
market production in which he figured was H. J. 
Byron's three-act comedy, " An English Gentle- 
man." Sothern's part in this (I believe that 
Byron had previously played it himself, then 
calling the piece " The Last Shilling ") was that 
of Charles Chuckles, a warm-hearted, cool-headed, 
but not too quick-witted young English squire, 
who, being duped by impostors, deems it a matter 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 87 

of honour to give up his estates, and who having, 
to the amazement of the audience, done many 
eccentric and quixotic things while in a state of 
penury, comes to his own again, and marries the 
heroine, just in the nick of time for the fall of the 
curtain. In describing the character as a " cool- 
headed " one, I forgot, for the moment, that 
Sothern caused Squire Chuckles to appear in 
neatly cropped flaming red hair. The make up 
was both new and effective, but " An English 
Gentleman " was not a wevy interesting or 
attractive play, and its life was not longer than 
its deserts. 

The eagerly sought " Second Dundreary 
success " was apparently as far off as ever, when, 
during one of his American engagements, it 
seemed to be suddenly found. I cannot help 
thinking that it was because the nervous and over- 
sensitive Sothern had allowed Byron to make the 
success as Sir Simon Simple that, but for his 
want of confidence, might have been his, he was 
ever ready to try a part in which Byron had 
gained popularity. Nothing could have seemed 
xmre out of Sothern's somewhat limited range 



88 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERtf. 

than the character of the disappointed provincial 
tragedian, Fitzaltamont, which Byron had created 
at the Adelphi, in March, 1870, and which he 
had again portrayed at the Strand, in October, 
1872, calling the piece in which it was the central 
figure, in the first place, " The Prompter's Box," 
and in the second, " Two Stars ; or, The Footlights 
and the Fireside." 

Sothern never saw the piece performed, but 
of course he knew of it, and when, while in 
Philadelphia, a friend suggested that the part 
would suit him, he at once telegraphed to Byron 
for a copy of it. Having received and read it, the 
idea took his fancy, and, to use his own words, 
" It appeared to me that if I could good-naturedly 
satirise the old school of acting, contrasting it 
through the several characters with the present 
school, I should arrive at the same effects in 
another manner which were produced in Dun- 
dreary ; that is to say, that though stigmatized 
by everybody as a very bad tragedian, I should 
gain the sympathy of the audience in the satire, 
however much they might laugh at my pecu- 
liarities. The character is not an imitation of 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 89 

any one actor I have ever seen. I have simply 
boiled down all the old school tragedians as I 
boiled down all the fops I had met before I played 
Dundreary. I tested the piece in Philadelphia, 
and its success was immediate. In my judgment, 
' The Crushed Tragedian/ if not the best part in 
my repertory, is likely to command popular 
favour at once wherever it is performed, and to 
retain its hold upon the stage for many years." 

In view of the reception of Sothern's appear- 
ance in this character in London, it may be 
instructive to glance at what leading American 
critics had to say concerning it. It is as follows : — 

" Mr. Sothern's impersonation of Fitzaltamont, 
' The Crushed Tragedian,' is the more impressive 
the oftener it is seen, and the more attentively it 
is studied. To fully appreciate its surpassing 
merits as a dramatic realization, it is necessary 
to do something more than look and laugh. It is 
only when we have seen Mr. Sothern's per- 
formance so often that we can forego the enjoy- 
ment of the playgoer, to watch with the eyes of 
a student, that the artistic power of the creation 
is revealed. Then, and not till then, do we begin 



90 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

to understand what a creation his Fitzaltamont 
really is. 

" Much has been said of the wonderful versa- 
tility of the actor who could, from Dundreary, 
transform himself with such magical completeness 
into that utter antithesis of the English fop, 
the sombre, misanthropic, theatrical Fitzaltamont ; 
but this versatility, noteworthy as it is, is one of 
the least remarkable characteristics of the im- 
personation. The greatest merit of his Fitzalta- 
mont lies in this — that out of a mere thing of 
threads and patches, out of a stage tradition, a 
conventional laughing-stock, a popular butt, he 
has created a living, sentient human being. Into 
the dry bones of a common caricature he has 
breathed vitality, for it is just as impossible not to 
recognize in the ' Crushed ' a fellow-being, having 
the same feelings and affections as ourselves, as 
it is not to laugh at the strange eccentricities 
which distinguish him. Fitz is human to begin 
with, and so commands our sympathies. He is 
also in dead earnest. He believes in his own 
powers with all his might and main. His vanity 
is equal to that which consumed the heart of 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 91 

Malvolio, and his vanity impels him, as it impelled 
the cross-gartered steward, to believe anything of 
himself and his capacities. From some reason or 
other, Fitzaltamont has taken up the idea that he 
is a tragic genius, and he believes that with all 
his heart and soul. When he announces himself 
as being * crushed,' it is with the utmost sincerity. 
The spectator knows better. He knows that his 
vanity is Fitzaltamont* s stock-in-trade, and thus 
the character becomes laughter-provoking. 

" And how laughable it is, only those who have 
seen Mr. Sothern play it can form an idea. With 
what elaboration of detail does the actor embody 
his conception ! There is not a gesture, not an 
intonation, not a movement, but it seems to 
illustrate the character portrayed. He strides 
across the stage, and it is as though he were 
wading through a sea of gore ; he mutters to 
himself, ' Ha ! ha ! ' and you know that he is 
cursing fate with a bitterness loud and deep ; he 
scowls, and it is plain that he thinks his frown is 
as majestic as Olympian Jove himself; he flings 
himself in a chair as though wearied with such 
a continual battling with destiny; he leans, in 



92 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

contemplation, against the mantelpiece, and it 
is manifest that he is philosophically pondering, 
a la ' Hamlet,' upon the vanity of the world, and 
its lack of appreciation for genius, and always 
and in all things poor Fitzaltamont is exquisitely, 
indescribably ludicrous. 

" But, whatever he says or does, no faintest 
suspicion that he is making himself ridiculous 
ever crosses his mind. He is without the least 
scintilla of humour, and, acting as he is all the 
time, he is all the time in deadly earnest. It is 
the world that is out of joint — not he. Mr. 
Sothern's impersonation of ' The Crushed Trage- 
dian ' is no less an acquisition to the dramatic 
world, than a triumph of the actor's talent." 

Another well-known American writer said, 
" When a new, distinct, and enjoyable character 
is created by author and actor for the dramatic 
stage, it has good title to take rank among other 
works of art. It is in many respects just such 
a creation as an accepted masterpiece of sculpture, 
or a finished painting, or a grand piece of music, 
to which the cultivated mind pays homage of 
admiration for the skill, the study, the talent, or 



SOTHERX ON THE STAGE. 93 

the genius displayed in the achievement. Some- 
thing like this is done by Mr. Sothern in the 
study and representation of Fitzaltamont, the 
* Crushed Tragedian.' This new character stands 
out like a statue, or the central figure of a life- 
like picture. It is not only distinct from all 
others of the characters with which our dramas 
are peopled, but it is as opposite as possible to 
Dundreary, that other creation of Mr. Sothern 
with which his fame as a dramatic artist is so 
largely identified, and there is not the faintest 
flavour of Mr. Sothern's own individuality in it. 

" It is not our purpose to describe the 
4 Crushed Tragedian.' It would require a good 
deal of study to do even that in a satisfactory 
way. The play must be seen and heard to be 
understood, and it will be the better enjoyed 
by those who go to see it if they have no detailed 
description. It may be said, however, that, not- 
withstanding the ' dejected 'haviour of the visage ' 
of Fitzaltamont, and his inky habiliments, very 
seedy and baggy, and the many set-backs he 
suffers in pursuing the pet ambition of his life, his 
expression of his professional woes is so grotesque 



94 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

and ludicrous that the audience is in one continu- 
ous strain of laughter so long as he is on the 
stage." 

Concerning this new success, Sothern wrote 
to England, " ' The Crushed Tragedian ' is 
literally a tremendous HIT. Not even standing- 
room ; and next Saturday will be our fiftieth 
night. Five calls nightly after the fourth act, 
and all purely done by BUSINESS, as I am not 
on the stage for four pages until the end of the 
act. It has neatly ' walked over ' Dundreary s 
head, and will go a good year in London. I 
have greatly altered the piece and re-written 
my part to a very great extent. I have gently 
satirised the old school of acting without bur- 
lesquing it. In short, without egotism, I may 
truly tell you that I have once more ' struck oil,' 
as they say in America." 

That, notwithstanding Sothern's high hopes 
concerning it, " The Crushed Tragedian " failed in 
London, is now a matter of stage history. It was 
first, in the May of 1878, " tried " in Birmingham, 
and the keenness of his disappointment at the 
Hay market must have been terribly aggravated 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 95 

by the enthusiasm with which his performance 
had been on the previous night received by his 
old friends the provincial playgoers. Before he 
stepped on to the Birmingham boards he, in his 
usual nervous way, expressed some doubt. " The 
part was a great hit in America," he said ; " but 
the question is, how will it be received in 
England ? " The Midlanders, at least, were not 
slow to answer the question. The house was 
packed, the reception of Fitzaltamont, in his 
wonderful dress and make-up, was immense, and 
the piece and the impersonation were received 
with boisterous acclamation. The judicious, how- 
ever, shook their heads, and it was a significant 
fact that, in the leading local paper of the next 
day, there was no notice of " The Crushed 
Tragedian." When the performance was over, 
I went round to see Sothern and to take him 
home. " He has just gone," said the stage-door 
keeper, " and he told me to tell you that you 
would find him " — giving me a card — " at this 
address." Knowing that he had not had time to 
change his dress, I thought at first that he was 
playing me one of his notorious and never-ending 



96 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

practical jokes ; but, finding that he was not in his 
dressing-room, I went to the place named, and 
there I found him, close on midnight, in all the 
" bravery" of " The Crushed Tragedian," as " The 
Mammoth Comique," being photographed under 
the blinding glare of the electric light ! It was 
a curious sight, and one that I am unlikely to 
forget — the wonderfully painted and disguised 
face, the gaudy and exaggerated costume, the 
carefully studied pose, and the eager and excited 
interest of the sitter ! With this quaint com- 
panion 1 returned to the theatre, that he might 
change his dress, and over his after-supper cigar 
that night he became enthusiastic. " I have got 
my second Dundreary success," he declared. " I 
didn't know how ' Fitz ' would go in England, 
and, mark me, this means five hundred nights at 
the Haymarket ! " Full of assurance, he left me 
the next day for London ; in the evening '* The 
Crushed Tragedian " was produced on the boards 
that had witnessed Dundreary s London triumph, 
and — well, the fate of that version of Byron's 
play is well known. 

The next day he wrote, " An organized 



S0THERN ON THE STAGE. 97 

system to d — n the piece. Eows of hissers ! 
We'll see who'll win." 

We know now who won, and I fear that the 
loss of the game told heavily on poor Sothern's 
heart. It is not for me to defend, in the face of 
abler critics, " The Crushed Tragedian," but I 
think that all who saw the impersonation will 
allow that it contained many touches by no 
means unworthy of the creator of Dundreary, It 
was, however, " caviare to the general," and, as 
a matter of consequence, failed to attract. 

Of it a well-known London writer said, " Mr. 
Sothern's make-up is very droll, his control of 
his voice is remarkable, and his facial play is 
indescribable. Had he played the rdle he assumes 
in a piece of half the length, he would have 
obtained a conspicuous triumph." 

In America Fitzaltamont was always 
triumphant, and an extraordinary lawsuit, in 
which he was the defendant, added to his notoriety 
and popularity. Count Joannes, once an actor of 
the old school of which Sothern made fun, and 
subsequently an eccentric lawyer, actually brought 
a suit to stop the performance of the piece on 

7 



98 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

the ground that Sothern's make-up maligned him, 
and generally burlesqued his identity. 

A reporter of an American paper, who called 
on Sothern with the view of obtaining informa- 
tion concerning these preposterous and abortive 
proceedings, wrote as follows : — 

"Mr. Sothern had just driven up, and was 
alighting from his coupe when a reporter reached 
the stage-door of the Park Theatre. As the 
4 Crushed Tragedian ' was to come on very 
shortly, he invited the caller to go into his 
dressing-room and talk with him while he was 
making-up. He had not heard of the Count's 
proceedings, and was inclined to discredit the 
story. ' It's some joke,' said he, unbuttoning his 
shirt collar and reading a slip of newspaper which 
had been handed to him, containing an applica- 
tion of the Count to the court. * Why, I never 
saw the man but once in my life, and that was 
four months after I began the " Crushed 
Tragedian." Does he really look like the 
Crushed ? Well, God help him ! Been thirty 
years making a reputation ? — that's not an unusual 
time ; I have known it to take longer — and I am 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 99 

taking it from him ! Come, now, that's too much ! 
Seriously, is this thing true ? Well, if it is, and 
if I have to go down to that court to show cause, 
by George, I pity the man that brings me ! I 
won't let him rest while his worried life clings to 
him ! He shall get telegrams and post-cards from 
this time on for ever. Do about it ? Why, I shall 
appear, of course ! But I don't know anything 
about it, except what you have just told me. Now, 
my hair ' — to his servant, who handed him his wig 
— 6 has the Count Joannes really hair like this ? 
I cannot believe it — it is some monstrous sell.' 

" Mr. Sothern had put on the long, solemn 
hair of the * Crushed Tragedian,' and his eyes 
were circled about with rings of tearful red, when 
there was a knock at the door, and another 
reporter was announced — from the Tribune. Mr. 
Sothern threw a look of dark suspicion into his 
eyes and sadly shook hands with him. 

" ' I suppose you have heard, Mr. Sothern,' 
said the new-comer, ' that the Count Joannes has 
obtained an order from the court for you to show 
cause why you should not be restrained from 
playing the " Crushed Tragedian ? " ' 



100 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

" ' Is this a joke, sir ? ' asked the actor, very 
stiffly. 

" ' Oh no, indeed ! It is a fact. He really 
has. Haven't you heard of it ? ' 

" ' I think there is a conspiracy, and now it 
strikes me that you are in it. I never played a 
practical joke in my life. But, go on, sir.' 

" ' Really, Mr. Sotbern, this is a serious 
matter. The Count has actually obtained ' 

" ' Do you mean to tell me, on your honour, 
that you are not attempting to joke with me ? ' 

"'No, indeed; I ' 

" ' Remember, I am not to be trifled with.' 

" ' Do you anticipate any personal trouble 
between the Count and yourself? ' 

" ' If what you tell me is true, I do? 

" ' In case of a duel, from whom would the 
challenge naturally come ? ' 

" ' Oh, from him ! He is my senior, and I 
would not think of cutting in in such a matter.' 

" ' But he is titled, and, as far as I know, a 
similar honour has never been conferred upon you 
by any German potentate.' 

" ' Only because I have been too busy to think 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 101 

of it. It's waiting for me, and I can have it any 
time I please.' 

" ' How would you fight the Count if he should 
challenge you ? ' 

" ' I should prefer the date to be the first of 
April, and, although I haven't yet fully con- 
sidered the question, I think the weapons should 
be cannon. Yes, on reflection, I am sure I shall 
insist upon those new cannon that discharge one 
hundred and seventy shots a minute. He shall 
sit upon one of those engines and I upon another, 
and we will continue to discharge them until 
there shall be no remnant of either the Count or 
Sothern.' " 

But although the actor treated the whole 
thing as a joke, Count Joannes was terribly in 
earnest. Of course nothing came of his " suit " 
except a capital advertisement for Fitzaltarnont, 
of which full advantage was taken. 

When " The Crushed Tragedian " so signally 
failed at the Haymarket, Sothern appeared for 
a short time as Sydney Spoonbill, in a three-act 
farcical play by H. J. Byron, entitled " A 
Hornet's Nest ; " but, as he himself said, it was 



102 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

" simply a case of dressing himself well, and 
larking about the stage for an hour or so," 
and, though it caused abundant laughter, the 
impersonation did not add to his reputation. 

For benefits, and on other similar occasions, 
he now and then took other parts, but this 
practically exhausts the list of important cha- 
racters in which he was seen on the English stage. 

For the benefit of Edwin Adams, in New 
York, one act of " Othello " was given, with 
Sothern as the Moor, Florence as Iago, Lotta as 
Desdemona, and Mrs. John Drew as Emilia. Of 
this performance one who was present said, 
" Mrs. Drew acted Emilia superbly, and of course 
in all seriousness ; but little Lotta, the American 
Chaumont, burlesqued Desdemona by kicking her 
train and rattling off the speeches, much to the 
disgust of poor Sothern, who, magnificently cos- 
tumed, played Othello in dead earnest, much to 
the disappointment of the audience, who had 
expected all sorts of antics from Florence and 
himself. In this case, as frequently off the stage, 
Sothern suffered from his reputation as an incor- 
rigible farceur; frequently, when he was quite 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 103 

serious in conversation, he would find people 
laughing at his remarks." 

I have sometimes thought that it was the 
recollection (if not the mortification) of these 
moments that first made Sothern think he would 
like to play " The Crushed Tragedian." Con- 
cerning his benefit performance, in which he 
failed to impress an American audience with his 
Othello, he wrote to England, " Ned Adams's 
(dying) benefit comes to over £2000, but the 
excitement and worry have made me really ill." 
Poor Sothern ! He little thought then how near 
he was to his own end ! 

Of new pieces, and ideas for new pieces, his 
busy brain was always full. Dundreary shown 
under new conditions was always with him a 
favourite notion, and I once heard him say, with 
a half laugh, after nervously thrashing out a 
number of droll notions in this connection, 
" 4 Dundreary's Funeral ' wouldn't be a bad title, 
would it ? " There was to be a piece called " The 
Founder of the Family," in which the father 
of Dundreary and his brother Sam was to be 
introduced to the public. The manuscript of 



104 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN". 

this play is in existence, and the idea of it is 
excellent. The " Founder " is depicted as a kind- 
hearted, aristocratic Englishman, absolutely with- 
out a memory — an elaborate and altogether 
whimsical, but always gentlemanly, Mr. Gather- 
wool. I believe that Mr. E. H. Sothern intends 
to try this piece in America ; he possesses much 
of his father's peculiar talent and method, and 
I hope and believe that he will succeed in it. 
In a piece that was written for, but never acted 
by, his father by Messrs. Robert Reece and 
Maddison Morton, and the title of which has 
been altered from " Trade " to " The Highest 
Bidder," he has already won fame and fortune. 

Sothern always very much regretted that he 
had not had the chance of creating the character 
of Cheviot Hill in Mr. W. S. Gilbert's excruciat- 
ingly funny comedy " Engaged." " It is what I 
have been waiting for for years," he declared ; " it 
would have fitted me like a glove." Few play- 
goers who remember the actor's quaint method, 
and bear in mind Mr. Gilbert's ingeniously con- 
ceived character, will in this instance doubt his 
judgment. In Cheviot Hill he would very likely 



SOTHERN" ON THE STAGE. 105 

have found his " second Dundreary success." But 
for ill-health he would have played the part in 
New York, and, knowing that Americans have 
no associations with the " Cheviot Hills," he 
proposed to alter the name of the character to 
The Marquis of Piccadilly. There were other 
pieces by Dr. Westland Marston concerning 
which he was justifiably sanguine, but in which 
he never appeared. The last work upon which 
I saw him engaged was the study of the play 
specially written for him by Mr. Gilbert, entitled 
" Foggerty's Fairy." When this piece was pro- 
duced by Mr. Charles Wyndham at the Criterion it 
did not prove a great attraction, but I, who heard 
Sothern read it, and was thus able to understand 
his grasp of a very peculiar character, believe that 
in his hands it would have been a striking success. 
His carefully marked copy of the play is before 
me now. Another idea of his was a play in which 
he might assume madness, just as in " David 
G-arrick " he simulated drunkenness. He only 
gave this up when a friend of his — a physician — 
told him that when he was a medical adviser at 
a madhouse, and was compelled to listen to the wild 



106 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

vagaries of his patients, he found himself drifting 
unconsciously into the same channels, his sleep 
being disturbed by strange dreams, and his whole 
nature absorbed in the contemplation of the mad- 
world. Insanity seemed to follow him like a 
nightmare, until at last, finding that his mind 
was likely to become more or less sympathetically 
affected, he determined to sacrifice his salary, 
retire from the institution, and commence the 
ordinary practice of medicine. Sothern, who 
had almost a morbid horror of madness, dreaded 
a similar experience, and immediately abandoned 
the project. A piece that was written for him 
while he had it in view, and of which he had 
approved, has been produced by Mr. Edward 
Compton under the title of " The Actor." 

Few who witnessed the delightful ease with 
which he went through his parts would imagine 
that Sothern was the most nervous of actors. 
But it was so, and he once said, " I think that 
most of our best actors are painfully nervous, 
especially on the first two or three nights of 
a performance in which they may be specially 
interested ; and my experience tells me that 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 107 

people with this temperament are never fully 
satisfied with their labours. They are perpetually 
polishing, improving, and revising. The very 
instant that an actor is satisfied with his own 
work, and believes himself to have reached the 
acme of cleverness, from that moment he begins 
to deteriorate. I am more nervous in going 
before an audience now than I was twenty 
years ago. During the first night of ' The 
Crushed Tragedian ' a lady with whom I was 
playing told me she thought I was going to 
drop on the stage in a faint, and I thought so 
too, for my hands and feet were as cold as marble. 
This, however, is by no means strange. I have 
seen one of the oldest and most distinguished 
actors on the English stage with his tongue so 
completely paralysed for several seconds, that he 
was obliged to wet his lips before he could deliver 
a line." 

It is worthy of note here that although 
Sothern always wished to excel and be received in 
serious parts, he believed that comedy required 
even more intensity, and, as he would put it, 
" magnetism," than melodrama or tragedy, because, 



108 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

he declared, " in the one case the actor mav find 
his effect created simply by the representation of a 
touching story, while in the other, unless the 
performer by action fully illustrates the humour 
of an idea, the comedy fails to be appreciated, and 
the magnetic power of his art is absent/' 

Never should it be forgotten that, ever mind- 
ful of his early struggles and disappointments, 
Sothern, in the day of his triumph, did all that in 
him lay for the charitable institutions of the 
theatrical profession. In October, 1871, making a 
" farewell " appearance at the Hay market prior to 
his departure to America, he generously handed 
over his share of the profits of a memorable evening 
to the Eoyal General Theatrical Fund. The house 
was, in a pecuniary sense, a very large one, the 
receipts amounting to nearly £500. After deduct- 
ing Mr. Buckstone's share of the proceeds, and the 
usual expenses, Sothern contributed to the charity 
the handsome sum of £204. The ordinary receipts 
were increased by admirers of the actor, who 
secured private boxes at abnormal prices, by 
others who willingly paid double prices for their 
stalls, and by twenty-five enthusiasts who paid a 



SOTHERN ON THE STAGE. 109 

guinea each to go behind the scenes and bid the 
most popular actor of his day good-bye. 

Speaking of this performance and its results, 
the Times said, " Mr. Sothern has thus signalized 
his departure by a munificent act of charity, 
augmenting a popularity which scarcely seemed 
susceptible of increase, and there is no doubt that 
his reappearance at the Haymarket next summer 
will be eagerly anticipated by the playgoing 
world of England. Since he first made our public 
acquainted with Lord Dundreary he has been a 
noted figure, constantly present on the London or 
provincial stage, and his visit to the United States 
will cause a serious gap in the theatrical amuse- 
ments of the three kingdoms." 

Nine months later he did a still more notable 
thing, and in speaking of it I may once more 
quote the Times : — 

" Probably in the history of the theatrical 
profession there is no fact more extraordinary or 
more honourable than the appearance of Mr. 
Sothern on Wednesday night. In the middle of 
an American engagement he crosses the Atlantic 
for the express purpose of representing his great 



110 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

character, Lord Dundreary, for the benefit of the 
Royal General Theatrical Fund. Of course, every- 
body was delighted with an exhibition of character 
which bears witness to an original genius worthy 
of Rabelais ; but the cheers which welcomed his 
graceful words of farewell were given, not merely 
to the great actor, but to the generous benefactor. 
The deed of charity done, Mr. Sothern recrosses 
the Atlantic, and pursues the course of his Ameri- 
can engagement." 

In concluding my chapter on " Sothern on the 
Stage," I cannot do better than quote Dr. West- 
land Marston, who, besides being an acute critic 
and an undoubted authority, had, as we have seen, 
exceptional opportunities of forming an opinion of 
his acting capacities. He says, " In broad or 
eccentric characters, Mr. Sothern's humour was 
peculiar to itself. In refined comedy, his manner, 
albeit less airy than that of the younger Mathews, 
was not dissimilar. Moreover, in his power in 
the direction of sentiment, though special and 
very limited, he differed from his brother-comedian, 
in whom it scarcely existed. Sothern, though 
somewhat heavy in serious delivery, could be 



SOTHERN" ON THE STAGE. Ill 

earnest and telling in sarcasm, and I have known 
him, on one or two occasions, surprise the house 
by a touch of pathos, all the more telling from 
contrast with his reckless levity. But in his 
peculiarity as an eccentric humorist he had no 
rival in his own day — no successful competitor. 

" Whether by design or by instinct, he was com- 
plete master of all that is irresistible in the 
unexpected. If, as in Lord Dundreary, the 
character he assumed was half-idiotic, he would 
deliver its absurdities with an air of profound 
sagacity, and now and then relieve them by a 
sharp thrust of shrewd common sense. If his 
mistakes were ridiculous and farcical, as when he 
stumbled into the lap of an old dowager, the 
confusion that the mistake occasioned him, and his 
air of well-bred contrition, half-redeemed him in 
one's opinion. 

" In his early performances in ' David G-ar- 
rick ' — especially the scenes in which he attempts 
to disenchant the citizen's daughter by assuming 
the excesses of a drunkard — Mr. Sothern was 
droll and effective, without being overstrained, 
and there was real feeling in his sense of the 



112 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERX. 

humiliation he inflicts upon himself to save the 
girl who loves him from a misplaced passion. His 
declamation of some tragic lines, though a little 
heightened for the special occasion, was so fervent, 
that it might have been effective if his acting had 
been in earnest. More than once, when he 
expressed his besetting desire to play tragedy, and 
his fear that after Lord Dundreary the public 
would not accept him, * Deliver tragedy,' I said, ' as 
you do in " David G-arrick," only omit the touch 
of burlesque, and you may succeed.' ' Ah ! but it 
is just because in " David Garrick " it is burlesque,' 
he replied, ' that I dare let myself go.' This reply 
seemed to me to light up the entire position." 

It lighted up the position very perfectly indeed. 



( 113 ) 



CHAPTER II. 

SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 

" It is not a matter of wonder that Sothern is 
spoken of as 'a prince of good fellows.' He is 
magnetic in manner, humorous in speech, rich in 
reminiscence, responsive and sympathetic, a good 
listener, an equally good talker, and always spark- 
ling like a newly-opened bottle of champagne. 
With such a battery of social forces, added to 
ability of a high order in the representation of the 
peculiar characters with which his name is now 
identified on both sides the Atlantic, professional 
success has been a legitimate result. In person 
Mr. Sothern is probably five feet ten inches in 
height, and put together as if intended for hard 
work. He is wiry, elastic, as restless as a bundle 
of nerves under galvanic influence, and would be 
marked in any crowd as a man possessed of strong 

8 



114 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

individuality and unusual personal characteristics. 
In age the actor has been so well preserved that, 
like Tim Linkin water, he might have been born one 
hundred and fifty years old, and gradually come 
down to five-and-twenty, for he seems younger 
every birthday than he was the year before. His 
face, undisturbed by a wrinkle or a line of trouble, 
and habitually quiet, is still lighted up under a 
mass of beautiful white hair by a pair of bright 
bluish-grey eyes, which look as if they were 
undergoing continual drill to keep them in proper 
subjection. It is a countenance full of expression 
— now as imperturbable as if it were carved out of 
lignum vitce, a perfect dead wall, and again filled 
with a crowd of welcomes shining out of every 
smile. A long grey moustache hides the mouth, 
but fails to conceal the many little lights that 
hover round the corners, especially when the 
mental fireworks are let off, and one begins to 
feel as if he were an aurora borealis. Tidy in 
dress, with little or no display of jewellery, in- 
genuous, open and frank in the acknowledgment 
of a foible or an error, such is an offhand pen- 
portrait of Edward Askew Sothern." 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 115 

Thus wrote one who knew Sothern in the later 
years of his life intimately. Will his description, 
I wonder, convey to those who did not know the 
actor in private life any idea of what he really 
was ? Oddly worded though some of it is, it is 
all true enough ; and as I am no great believer in 
" pen-portraits," and certainly could not hope to 
conjure up with ink and paper the varying ex- 
pressions on the refined, handsome, and ever-kindly 
face that I knew so well, I quote it here. Of 
course the " beautiful white hair " and the " long 
grey moustache " belonged to the latter period of 
his career. I knew him when moustache and hair 
were brown, and when he was the best looking, 
the best dressed, and the most fascinating man in 
Ed gland. No wonder that people went half crazy 
about him, or that he became the very idol of 
London society, and the courted guest of all — 
from Royalty downwards. If ever a deliberate 
plot was made to spoil a man, the victim of that 
plot was Sothern ; and the real wonder is that he 
came out of the ordeal so well. Feted, petted, 
and ran after by the highest in the land, he never 
forgot his friends, and though, as a matter of 



116 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

expediency, he availed himself of the invitations 
that were literally showered upon him, his 
happiest moments, I know, were passed with 
those who really cared for him, and had his best 
interests at heart. Sothern, as I have already 
said, was the comet, not of one, but of many 
London seasons ; and there is no doubt that the 
whirl of excitement in which he perforce lived, 
coupled with its inevitable consequences, prema- 
turely produced the white hair, the grey mous- 
tache, and the all too early death. But he had 
his happy days, as those who knew him when he 
lived in the charming old-fashioned house called 
" The Cedars," in Wright's Lane, Kensington, 
will well remember. Revelling in the presence of 
fulfilled ambition and apparently endless popu- 
larity and prosperity, Sothern became an ideal 
English host, and took keen delight in all the 
pleasures that his position enabled him to com- 
mand. Not once, however, did he allow the 
exacting demands that were now made on every 
moment of his time to interfere with his duties on 
the stage. Attributing his hard-earned success to 
earnestness — to doing everything as well as he 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 117 

knew how, — to never acting on the impulse of the 
moment, and to thoroughly understanding what he 
had to do, — he was ever on the look-out for fresh 
characters and pieces ; and when rehearsals be- 
came necessary, he worked as hard and as 
anxiously as when his very bread depended upon 
his exertions. The care that he took with his 
acting was almost rivalled by the extraordinary 
and minute attention that he paid to the details 
of his costume when dressing for his parts. 
Nothing would induce him to have anything of 
a makeshift character, and on no occasion was 
he known to appear in public in garments in 
which he had once been seen on the stage. An 
infinite capacity for taking pains was certainly 
comprised in, if it did not wholly constitute, 
Sothern's genius. 

It is certainly wonderful how he could be — as 
he undoubtedly was — in this over-busy, feverish 
period of his life, the promptest and most regular 
of correspondents. Every letter — whether from 
friend or stranger — that he received was quickly 
answered ; every application that was made to 
him received some response. Like every actor of 



J 18 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

note, he was plagued, almost beyond endurance, 
by the manuscripts of would-be dramatists. 
" Great heavens ! " he used to say, " every fresh 
man that I meet has either written a play, or wants 
to sell wine." And yet, whenever he saw the least 
hope in the work submitted to him, he was ever 
full of courtesy, kindliness, and encouragement. 
" If ever," he wrote to a young author, who had 
timidly submitted a play to him, " if ever you 
write a piece that I can squarely and fairly say 
' go ahead ' with, I'll do my very d — dest to make 
it a ' hit.' Get to work on it, and I'll nurse it in 
America and bring it back full grown. Nothing- 
would give me greater pleasure than assisting in 
a grand success for you — only don't let us make 
a mistake. Frame out a pretty, simple love story ; 
let me tell you where the ' ends of acts ' come in 
(experience alone can smell that) ; and, above all, 
be human in every word you write. But, 4 Oh ! it's 
so easy to advise, and so difficult to do,' say you, 
and naturally too. It is. Don't write for a star 
— don't write for me ; write for a very first-class 
company, every part A 1 in its class and propor- 
tions. All I can add is that I'll put my whole 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 119 

soul and heart into it, and no one, save you, 
shall ever know I even suggested. Pull your 
head together with a plot — simple, natural, true 
to nature. Love is love all the world over. There 
is no new way of handling it ; but a real, genuine, 
honest, self-sacrificing love scene would be a ' dead 
certainty ' in its effect on young and old. Real 
hearts beat much alike. We all know that. Thou- 
sands of years ago they did — they do now — and 
ever will. Imagine yourself the hero, and write 
as you fancy you would feel" 

" Get your pieces printed," was a piece of 
advice that Sothern gave to unacted dramatists of 
more or less promise. " Tom Robertson," he 
wrote, " used to get all his plays kept in type, 
scene by scene. He said he could not judge the 
effect till he read them in type." 

An admirable lesson was conveyed in this 
way. " Write your pieces in telegrams. I mean 
by that, that all you inexperienced authors write 
so much too much, and I would have you go 
through your speeches and sentences from a 
telegraphic point of view. Here, for example, is 
a speech that would cost quite half-a-crown to 



120 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

send along the wires. Just look through it again, 
and see if, with the same sense conveyed in it, 
you could not cut it down and send it for a 
shilling. Overhaul your pieces in this way, and, 
depend upon it, you will improve them. The 
public of to-day have got used to telegrams, and 
prefer them to the polite correspondence of the 
Kichardsonian days." 

Sothern carried this theory of his into practice, 
and was a very strong believer in the efficiency 
of the use of the theatrical pruning-knife. The 
last time I saw him act (it was almost the last 
time that he played on English boards), a singular 
and almost painful thing occurred, which made 
him declare most emphatically that audiences 
cared little or nothing about dialogue, and that 
the more a piece was " cut " the better would be 
its chances of success. The play of the evening 
was " David Garrick." Sothern was so nervous, 
ill, worried, and unhappy, that (to those who 
knew it) it seemed almost impossible that he would 
get through the evening. He did very well, how- 
ever, carrying the house (and a crowded house it 
was) with him as usual, until the final act, when, 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 121 

kneeling by the side of the yielding Ada Ingot, 
Garrick had to tell the touching story of his early 
life, of his parents' objection to his choice of a 
profession, of his disobedience to their wishes, of 
his triumph as an actor, and of his never-ending 
remorse for his mother's broken heart. 

" Ada," began poor Sothern, " I had a mother 
once — I had a mother once ; " he then looked 
vaguely round the house, and, to those who knew 
him and his then state of health, it was clear that 
the words had left him. The voice of the 
prompter was heard ; Ada, with her averted face 
half-hidden in her handkerchief, endeavoured to 
give him the missing lines ; but it was of no avail, 
the words were hopelessly, irretrievably gone. 
" I had a mother once," he repeated, in the 
sonorous tones with which playgoers were once 
so familiar, and then, with a sigh, cutting the 
Gordian knot, he concluded by giving the final 
words of the speech, " My mother was dead. 
Her tears weigh upon me yet." The audience 
applauded, and, all else going well, "David 
Garrick " came to its usual brilliant termination. 
Smoking his after-supper cigar that night, 



122 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

Sothern asked me if I had noticed the contretemps. 
I could not say no, but, anxious that he should 
not distress himself about it, I told him that I did 
not think that it could have been observed by 
those who were not very familiar with the play. 
" Observed !" he said ; " but I should think it was 
observed ! Why, the scene never went so well. 
It was a chance cut, but it was a good one. 4 1 
had a mother once ; my mother is dead.' That is 
all the public want. They don't care to be 
troubled about such merely domestic details as 
Garrick's becoming a famous actor, and drawing 
a big salary ; or with the old lady's inconsistent 
and uninteresting broken-heartedness. ' I had 
a mother once ; my mother is dead.' That sums 
up everything ; it's all the public require, and it's 
all, in future, they will ever get from me in the 
last act of ' Garrick.' " 

Another young dramatist of my acquaintance 
sent a three-act comedy to Sothern, which he 
pronounced by letter to be " extraordinary — 
absolutely extraordinary," adding, " Come and 
talk it over with me." The young dramatist did 
go and talk it over with him, and what took 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 123 

place at that interview may, perhaps, best be told 
in dialogue. 

Y. B. I am so glad that you have read my play. 

Sothern. So am I. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Y. B. {delighted). That is almost more than I dared to 
hope. 

Sothern. It was a great deal more than I dared to hope. 

Y. B. You found it original ? 

Sothern. Absolutely. I never read anything like it 

Y. B. (thinking his fortune is made). Really 

Sothern (interrupting him). Shall I give you my candid 
opinion of it act by act ? 

Y. B. If it would not be too much trouble. 

Sothern. None at all. Well, I suppose you mean to 
commence with the first act ? 

Y. B. Naturally. 

Sothern. Pardon me, I was not quite sure. Of course, I'm 

not infallible — and Well, you're an author, and I'm 

only an actor, you know. Do you altogether like that first 
act? 

Y. B. Well, I can't say that I'm altogether satisfied 
with it. 

Sothern. Of course not. No one would be. I know the 
experience that you have had in these matters, and directly 
I read the first act I shook my head and said, " No, no ; 

confound it all ! , who knows more about plays than I 

do, can't be satisfied with the first act." 

Y. B. (pleased at the way in which he is being treated). 
What a critic you are ! 

Sothern. Not at all. You dramatists are the real critics, 
Very well, then ; you tell me — in confidence, of course — that 
you don't like the first act. Good ! Then we'll come to the 
second. 



124 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

Y. I), (hopefully). Yes; what of the second? 

Sothem. Not good, is it ? 

Y. B. (ruefully). Isn't it ? 

Sothem. Well, honestly, is it ? 

Y. B. I suppose not, if you have it so. 

Sothem. Pardon me, you have it so ; it's your play, not 
mine. Then, as you frankly tell me that you don't like the 
first act, and consider the second one not good — which 
means bad — hear my opinion of the third act. 

Y. B. (who feels that the third act is his strongest card). 
Yes, — well, — the third act ? 

Sothem. The third act, my boy, is simply beastly ! 

In the kindness of his heart, Sothern sub- 
sequently produced a little play by that young 
author, giving it, as few others would do, the 
very finest of chances. " I shall begin," he wrote, 
when the production was decided upon, " with 
' Garrick,' your piece afterwards, so that it will 
have the best place in the Bill. Then I shall 
wind up with ' A Eegular Fix.' ' How many 
overworked men, I wonder, would go to such 
trouble as this in order to let a novice have 
a hearing ? But Sothern always kept in mind 
the days of his early struggles, and was ever 
ready to lend a helping hand to those who were 
still toiling laboriously, and in many cases hope- 
lessly, on the road to the success that he had won. 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 125 

Another trait in his character was his hearty 
admiration of the good work done by his con- 
temporaries on the stage. Of J. B. Buckstone, 
under whose management at the Haymarket he 
made his first London appearance, and for so 
many years acted, he said, " Buckstone must now 
be about seventy-five years of age ; but, old as he 
is, he gets hold of his audience more rapidly than 
any one I know. A simple ' good morning ' from 
him seems to set the house in a roar. His 
personal magnetism is simply wonderful. He 
acts as if he had strings on all his fingers attached 
to the audience in front, and plays with them and 
pulls them about just as he wants." He con- 
sidered Mrs. Kendal the first and finest actress 
of the day, and he had a special admiration 
for the acting of Mrs. Bancroft, speaking of her 
as being in her own way " the best actress on the 
English stage — in fact, I might say on any stage." 
He was also enthusiastic concerning the work 
done by Irving, Toole, Chippendale, Compton, 
Hare, Lionel Brough, Edward Saker, Edward 
Terry, Hare, W. Farren, and Kendal. Among 
the actors of his time, however, he gave the 



126 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

highest place to David James, whose wonderful 
transitions from broad low comedy to domestic 
pathos he could never sufficiently praise. Miss 
Larkin, too, came in for a full share of his appre- 
ciation. 

In his early American days he had wilfully 
kept himself out of an engagement in order that 
he might see Rachel play her celebrated cha- 
racters, and he never forgot the lesson that her 
acting taught him. " There was a fascination 
about it," he said, " that was almost painful. She 
had less action than any artist I have ever seen, 
but she was so intensely in earnest, and her 
passion was so overwhelming, though subdued, 
that you lost yourself in wonderment. I learned 
from her, therefore, that one of the chief elements 
of whatever success I expected was earnestness, 
intensity, and thorough identification with every 
part in which I might be engaged. There is 
not an audience in the world which will not 
be quick to detect the sympathy between the 
actor and his play." 

Of Charles Mathews's wonderful talent, which 
ran in somewhat the same groove as his own, he 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 127 

naturally held a high opinion. " He was un- 
doubtedly," he said, " the founder of the present 
school of light comedy, and when he dies I know 
of no man who will take his place. His force 
consists in his excessive — well, I may call it his 
champagny airiness. Even at the present time, 
when he must be nearly seventy years old, he 
dashes on the stage with all the lightness and 
brilliancy of a lad of twenty. I never saw Charles 
Mathews attempt a serious part, and, in fact, there 
doesn't seem to be one pathetic tone in his voice. 
Still, I am sure that he would play a pathetic scene 
in a perfectly natural manner." 

Among the dramatists who wrote for him he 
had an especial liking for Henry J. Byron — " and 
so would any one," he said, " who understands the 
character of the man, and appreciates his extra- 
ordinary facility for punning, twisting words 
inside out, and producing the wittiest of effects. 
One, however, frequently must read his burlesques 
before seeing them, in order to understand the 
nice shading which he employs in his word- 
painting. As regards his plays when put upon 
the stage, not one company in a hundred can give 



128 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERX. 

the necessary point to Byron's witticisms without 
seeming to force them. I know him well, and 
never met a man in all my travels who more com- 
pletely ' corruscated ' with brilliant thoughts and 
repartee. A stenographer could almost write an 
admirable burlesque by taking down what Byron 
says at his own dinner-table, because his humour 
is thrown off so easily and naturally. Wit with 
him is spontaneous, and when in the mood every 
sentence is an epigram. It is a prevailing impres- 
sion that Byron writes too rapidly, but, to my 
certain knowledge, he frequently does not take a 
pen in hand for weeks at a time. I have often 
seen him after a chatty dinner-party go to his 
desk and make a half-dozen memoranda. During 
that time he probably evolved the skeleton of a 
play. He never commences a drama wondering 
how he is going to finish it ; the framework is 
all clear before he puts pen to paper. The begin- 
ning and the end of every act are definitely 
settled ; as to the dialogue, that comes to him more 
naturally than he can scribble. I once asked him 
why he did not use a shorthand reporter. He 
replied that the scratching of his quill on the 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 129 

paper was like music to hi in ! Another thing ; 
he scarcely ever is guilty of an erasure, and when 
he has once written a piece he has the strongest 
possible objection to alterations. He rarely goes 
to see a first night's performance of his own work, 
and a play once produced seems to lose all interest 
in his mind, doubtless because it is so quickly 
succeeded by the plot of the next, which you may 
be sure he will speedily write. I should say that 
he has not more than two or three friends in the 
world whom he regards as intimate associates. 
In fact, his life is all work, but such pleasant 
work to him that it never becomes tiresome or 
monotonous." 

Concerning W. S. Gilbert, whom he regarded 
as " not only one of the shining lights of modern 
dramatic literature, but an excellent, generous, 
and high-toned gentleman," he has left the follow- 
ing graceful anecdote : " A short time ago," he 
said, " I made a proposition to him to write a 
comedy for me, which he agreed to do for an 
agreed sum, to be paid on the delivery of the 
manuscript. I particularly requested him not to 
make an individual part for me, inasmuch as I 

9 



130 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

wished to select it myself. The play, when 
finished, was a beautiful composition ; but, after 
many weeks of thought and reading, I came to 
the conclusion that the character which Gilbert 
had evidently created for my own personation was 
not suited to my style and methods, and I wrote 
him to that effect. He replied in the most 
unselfish spirit, expressing his regret that I had 
not been suited, and at once offering to take back 
the play. I like to speak of this circumstance, 
because it is an exceptional instance of large- 
heartedness on the part of one who might legally 
and reasonably have enforced his contract." 

To those who did not know Sothern intimately 
it may be somewhat of a surprise to be told that 
he was intensely fond of the study of theology. 
Every book upon the subject that he could get he 
would read with avidity, and he delighted in 
nothing more than a prolonged discussion on 
theological matters. He thoroughly disliked 
creeds, and had a profound contempt for bigotry ; 
but from his readings and discussions he formed 
religious convictions of his own, which were 
short, simple, and to the point. " They only," he 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 131 

would say, with an irresistible twinkle in his 
blue-grey eyes, " require living up to ! " And, in 
never forgetting the claims of friendship, he lived 
up to them right manfully. 

Although he never, unaided, was the author of 
a London-produced play, we have seen how he 
amplified the work of others, and in the few odd 
moments of his active life he was very fond of 
using his facile pen. As an example of what he 
would do in this direction, I may, perhaps, be 
permitted to quote the following " Rambling 
Reflections" that appeared in the Illustrated Sport- 
ing and Dramatic News of December, 1874 : — 

" In knocking about the world, here, there, 
and everywhere, I have sometimes whiled away 
the tedium of solitary evenings, while 'taking 
mine ease in mine inn,' by jotting down the ram- 
bling reflections that occurred to my mind during 
my long and lonesome railway journeys. Some 
of them owe their birth to stray paragraphs of 
newspapers picked up en voyage, others to in- 
cidents in my own chequered career, and yet 
others, I am afraid, to the mere rumble and jumble 
of the train, originating a similar rumble and 



132 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERST. 

jumble in the brain. However, be they as they 
may, good, bad, or indifferent, * be they spirits of 
health or goblins damned,' I will adventure them 
forth on the tide of public opinion, and launch 
my ' unconsidered trifles ' on the stream, as the 
truant schoolboy sends his paper boat floating 
whither chance may direct, without compass, 
helm, or log, and so, ' vogue la galere' 

" A strong prejudice exists among certain 
classes of presumably intelligent people against 
novels, novel-writers, and novel-readers. It is 
considered a waste of time to read works of 
fiction — that valuable time that might be so much 
better employed in minding your business, i.e. 
cheating your neighbours ; rational conversation, 
i.e. scandal and gossip ; scientific inquiry, i.e. 
having your head felt by Professor Bumptious ; 
and religion, i.e. damning everybody's soul who 
does not belong to your particular church. In 
former days this prejudice extended to a sort of 
social ostracism of all who dared to confess the 
heinous crime of novel-reading ; and truly, in 
these times, there was some shadow of excuse for 
such severity, for it must be allowed that the 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 133 

novels of the period, albeit full of wit and in- 
vention, were somewhat prurient, to use the 
mildest term, or what Judge of Eoundwood would 
have called ' bordering on the indel.' Fielding 
and Smollett have left us lifelike pictures of their 
times, indeed ; but we can scarcely blame the 
parents of that day for striving to guard the 
minds of their children from the cochonnerie so 
plentifully scattered over the pages of ' Peregrine 
Pickle,' ' Tom Jones,' and others of like kidney. 
The novels that were not naughty were insuffer- 
ably dull. Witness Richardson's ' Sir Charles 
Grandison,' a work which we defy any one, how- 
ever much imbued with respect for the ' classic 
authors,' to wade through at present; and the 
' Evelina ' of Miss Burney, which bears about the 
same relation to a good novel of the present day, 
in completeness of plot and sparkle of dialogue, 
as the ^Marchioness's orange-peel and water does 
to Perrier and Jouet's dry champagne. 

" With the Avatar of Scott all this was changed. 
A higher tone was infused into the literature of 
fiction. A choice of comic character, inclining 
more to the ludicrous than the coarse, to the 



134 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

eccentric than to the vulgar, took the place of the 
obscenities that passed for wit and humour with 
our great-grandfathers. Historical accuracy sup- 
planted loose description, and true local colouring- 
replaced that inclination to dress everybody and 
everything in Roman costume or else in the 
ordinary apparel of the time. The statue of 
Canning as a Roman senator and Garrick playing 
Macbeth in the uniform of the Guards are ex- 
amples in point. Scott was a scholar and anti- 
quarian. His historical characters are costumed 
with scrupulous accuracy, and armed according to 
the fashion of their age ; their conversation is 
modelled on the works of the old writers, un- 
starched to a colloquial consistency. In reading 
the romances of the ' Wizard of the North,'- we 
seem to live in the very midst of the people and 
manners described. Who has not shared the 
Scottish breakfasts at Tullyveolan, and drank 
' pottle deep ' from the Bear of Bradwardine ? 
How often have we quailed under the objurga- 
tions of Meg Dods, and accompanied the 'daun- 
dering ' by brae and burn of Edie Ochiltree ? It 
is not too much to say that he who has lovingly 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 135 

studied the ' Waverley Novels ' is an educated 
man. 

" From the era of Scott to the present day, 
novelists have sought, by every means in their 
power, of care and research, to make their works 
faithful pen-pictures of the times and places they 
profess to describe, so that the reader is trans- 
ported from scene to scene with the magic celerity 
of Chaucer's ' Hors of tree.' The whole world is 
opened to the view ; our ideas become gradually 
cosmopolitan — 

' No pent-up Utica contracts our powers, 
The whole, the boundless continent is ours.' 

German, French, Spanish, Italian, nay, even 
Russian and Asiatic life become as familiar to us 
as if we were ' native, and to the manner born.' 
National prejudices disappear ; we come to appre- 
ciate the fact that ' the whole world is akin,' and, 
by consequence, to recognize the universal brother- 
hood of man. As a natural result, war becomes 
abhorrent to our feelings ; familiarity with the 
manners and customs of other nations deprives 
us of that lofty contempt and insolent conceit 
which are such powerful incentives to aggression, 



136 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN". 

and we arrive at the conclusion that the eleventh 
commandment is by far the best, ' Love one 
another.' 

" In good novels of the present day, the reader 
is brought into close contact, mentally, with all 
sorts of people, and with all the diseases of the 
body politic, which, he would naturally avoid and 
shrink from personally. His sympathies are 
awakened and his charity aroused by the vivid 
pictures of misery and vice, and his best feelings 
are called into action responsive to the scenes of 
refinement and virtue depicted by the graphic 
pens of close observers. The manners of the 
higher classes, and the refinement of their 
language, are rendered available to all, and men 
may become, aye ! have become, finished gentle- 
men from the careful perusal of good novels, 
who, otherwise, from lack of opportunity and 
example, must have remained clowns. The novel- 
reader, also, lives a multiplied life ; he exists not 
only in his own person, but also in the history of 
each one of those friends of fancy whose com- 
panionship is as real to him as that of the men 
and women whom he daily meets. Is not Tom 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 137 

Pinch the bosom friend of every one ? Who 
has not taken Colonel Newcome into his heart 
of hearts ? Yerily, I believe that more than 
railways, steamships, or telegrams — more than 
gas, or, greatest of modern inventions, lucifer 
matches ! — have novels and novelists aided to 
advance the higher civilization and to extend the 
homogeneity of humanity. 

" The drama is but an acted novel, and, being 
acted, that is, presented in bodily form and audible 
speech, appeals even more vividly than mere 
written description to the masses who have not 
the faculty of impersonating in their own minds 
the ideas of others, and to whom representation is 
essential. We wonder what the world would be 
without the drama to ' hold, as 'twere, the mirror 
up to nature ; to show virtue her own feature, 
scorn her own image, and the very age and body 
of the time its form and presence ; ' had we no 
Othello to warn us against jealousy, no ' School 
for Scandal ' to ridicule that most fashionable vice, 
no ' Tartuffe ' to gibbet hypocrisy, no Iago to put 
us on our guard against our ' honest ' friends ? 
In this material age, and most matter-of-fact 



138 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERX. 

country, the drama, either in its spoken or written 
form, is almost the sole intellectual element of our 
civilization : all else is ' Fact, sir ! hard fact ! ' 
For ' to the general ' the influence of poetry, 
painting, and music is far removed, while the 
drama is ever present in some form or other. 
The pulpit is so entirely given over to the exalta- 
tion of sect, and dreams of the future life, to the 
utter neglect of things pertaining to the present 
existence ; deals so exclusively iu post-obits, in 
fact, is so thoroughly polemical and retrogressive, 
that its power as a purifier and guide is almost 
naught. The press, although, thank Heaven ! we 
can proudly point to the leading papers of 
England and America as the bulwarks of liberty 
and the fearless exposers of imposture and incom- 
petence, is still so occupied with the material 
occurrences of the day and the more weighty 
aifairs of State and commerce that, with the 
exception of those journals specially devoted to 
literature and art, it literally has not the space to 
devote to aesthetic culture as a main object, but is, 
by the necessity of the case, forced to neglect the 
lighter subjects ; and so the drama is left almost 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 139 

alone as a refining, elevating, and warning 
medium to that large majority of the world's 
inhabitants, whose lack of time, opportunity, or 
taste for study prohibits any very profound views 
to originate with themselves, and are therefore 
fain to accept the opinion of some ' guide, philo- 
sopher, and friend,' to mould their crude views of 
things into shape and consistence. Let us, then, 
watch that it be not lowered by the prurient taste 
of the vulgar, or the caprice and vanity of its 
professors, but lend one and all our best en- 
deavours to raise and purify it as the prop and 
mainstay of civilization." 

It will be surmised from this that Sothern was 
not only a firm believer in the real good that 
might be done by the conscientious following of 
his own profession, but an enthusiastic reader of 
high-class novels. Nothing, indeed, in the way 
of romance came amiss to him, and I well 
remember the eager and boyish delight with 
which he devoured the wildly improbable but 
cleverly conceived stories of Jules Verne. 

His " Rambling Reflections " were continued 
as follows : — 



140 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

" They say ' a straw thrown up, shows how 
the wind blows/ and the difficulty both in England 
and America of convicting any one accused of 
capital crime is but an indication of the gale of 
popular feeling blowing adverse to judicial 
murder. People are beginning to see that two 
wrongs do not make a right, and that to kill one 
man because he has killed another is but to put 
yourself in his place and to lower yourself to 
his level. A great many relics and exuviae of 
barbarism have descended to us from the old 
Jewish, Roman, and feudal times, when, as in all 
savage and semi-civilized tribes and peoples of the 
present day, vengeance was thought a virtue, and 
' an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,' was 
the iron rule which the advance of human thought 
seeks to displace by the golden one, ' Do unto 
others as ye would that others should do unto 
you;' with but indifferent success, however, as yet, 
for up to the present time people will go to church 
and listen reverently to the enunciation of the 
merciful precept of Him whom they acknowledge 
as the God of mercy, and afterwards condemn a 
fellow-creature to the stake, axe, or gallows, with 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 141 

the greatest complacency and satisfaction, licking 
their lips the while, and patting themselves on the 
head as expecting that God of mercy and loving- 
kindness to welcome each one to the heavenly city, 
when they pay Him a visit, with ' Well done, good 
and faithful servant ! enter thou into the joy of thy 
Lord.' 

" Happily, at last there appears ' a cloud no 
bigger than a man's hand ' rising above the 
horizon, which may prove to be the harbinger of a 
plenteous rain. Things are turning round, and 
people are beginning to see that ' the worst use 
you can put a man to is to hang him,' while the 
feeling that it is wrong for a fallible creature to 
commit an irrevocable act is daily gaining ground. 
If we kill a man because we, in our weak and 
easily misled judgment, think that he has com- 
mitted a murder, we cannot give back the life that 
we have rashly taken away, even should his 
innocence afterwards become as clear as the sun 
at noonday. The irrevocable deed is done past 
recall, and we, the people who have killed an 
innocent man, are as much murderers as he who, 
smarting under real or fancied wrongs, slays his 



142 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN - . 

injurer ; whereas, should we upon strong, and to 
us, convincing evidence, sentence a man to im- 
prisonment for life, and circumstances should in 
time prove his innocence, we can, at least, restore 
the remainder of his existence and make what 
poor atonement may be in our power for the time 
we have robbed him of. This feeling is the cause 
of the lenity exhibited by juries in cases of capital 
crime ; it may remain in abeyance in the instance 
of some professional slaughterer who basely 
murders for gain ; but in any case where the least 
excuse of passion is available, it starts up like a 
knight-errant of yore, and throws its protecting 
shield between the gallows and its victim. 

" Do away with the cruel, disgusting halter, 
and you will do away with forsworn juries and 
tergiversating judges. In order to make this a 
safe proceeding to the community, executive 
clemency should be abolished. Neither king, 
president, nor governor should have the power to 
turn a murderer loose upon society at his caprice ; 
the incontrovertible proof of entire innocence 
should alone justify the opening of the prison 
doors, and the united voice of the legislative body 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 143 

be the only means of grace. ' To this complexion 
we must come at last.' Let us consider for a 
moment the material, so to speak, of our juries. 
Are they not for the most part composed of stolid, 
half-educated, or wholly ignorant men of the lower 
middle-class, whose knowledge of the world is 
limited to the mere mechanical functions of their 
trade or calling, and who, even in that, are so 
unidedd, that if you order anything in the least 
different from what they have been used to, the 
least bit out of their groove, you are sure to have 
your orders totally misunderstood, and the article, 
whatever it may be, utterly spoiled ? Men to 
whom prejudice stands in the place of reason, who 
do so and so because their fathers did so before 
them, and to whom an original thought or a 
logical deduction is simply an impossibility ! 
And yet to such hands as these we trust a man's 
life ! that mysterious gift which, once taken, we 
cannot restore — that flame which, once extin- 
guished, we cannot relume — that ' Anima ' or 
breath which, once exhaled, is irrevocably diffused 
through the eternal void. And the judges ! what 
better are they? Why, not much more than a 



144 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN". 

hundred years ago the great lights of the law, the 
legal patriarchs, who are still looked up to as the 
exponents of British justice, burned old ladies at 
the stake as witches ! (Query, did they believe 
they were, or were their worships only yielding 
to public opinion, and roasting ancient dames 
1 pour encourager les autres ' ?) Truly, as Stephen 
Plim says, ' it's aw a muddle,' or, as I say myself, 
' it's one of those things that no fella can find 
out/ 

" I should like to come to life again in about 
five hundred years, and see how they manage 
things then. But I suppose even then there 
would be something to growl about, and that, 
with Don Quixote, that incarnation of reform, 
we should have ' duelos y quebrantes,' i.e. gripes 
and grumblings, at least once a week." 

There was, I think, nothing that Sothern 
hated so much, or concerning which he would 
wax so wrathfully eloquent, as capital punish- 
ment. 

That in the early days of his stage career 
Sothern had some ambition to become his own 
dramatist, will be seen by an extract from a letter, 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 161 

As a further proof of his desire in these days 
to get away from America and Dundreary, and to 
come to England with a piece after his own heart, 
I may quote from two letters written in 1859 : — 

"New York, January 7, 1859. 
" My Howard Athenaeum spec, begins on 
Monday, the 17th inst. Stars, Mrs. Forrest (i.e. 
Sinclair), Mr. and Mrs. Boucicault, Miss Matilda 
Heron, Miss Vandenhoff. I am leaving no stone 
unturned to ensure success, but God only knows 
whether it will turn out well. It will either be 
a big lump of money, or a dead failure. I'll keep 
you posted up in the whole affair. This everlast- 
ing 'American Cousin' is now in its twelfth week, 
and doubtless will run all the season. I left 
Wallack's because Lester and I clashed too much, 
and I felt a change of locality does good some- 
times. I only get sixty dollars here now, but I 
get two benefits, which brings it to seventy-five 
dollars. The panic lowered all salaries. If my 
Boston spec, be a success, you'll see me in Liver- 
pool to a certainty. What the devil do you mean 
by my getting £5 a week in England ? " . . . 

11 



162 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERX. 

"January 21, 1859. 
" On the 7th I wrote you a long letter. Since 
then I have opened the Howard Athenaeum, and 
Mrs. Sinclair's engagement has turned out an 
utter failure. I shall drop about 1200 dollars on 
her twelve nights ! The whole Boston public are 
against her. Every one fancied she would be a 
great card. This is a terrible blow to my English 
trip, but the Boucicaults, Miss Heron, and Miss 
VandenhofT may pull it up, — but I doubt if I can 
clear myself, unless these stars make a big strike ! 
'Tis very disheartening, and 'tis so bad to open 
the season with a failure. A few weeks more will 
settle the point. God grant I may be on the right 
side. ' Our American Cousin ' is running yet 
(15th week !) and bids fair to go till the 4th of 
July. 'Tis considered the biggest hit ever made 
in America ! " 

And again, in another undated but evidently 
earlier letter (for Dundreary was at last doing 
for him what his speculations as a manager did 
not), he says — 

" If I can possibly raise money enough, you 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 163 

will see me in England about the first week in 
September. All depends on the success of my 
Halifax season. So much do I desire to come, 
that I am making no engagements for the Fall 
here. Should Halifax fail, it will stun me ; but 
I've full hopes it will succeed." 

The following extracts from his letters to a 
lifelong friend, and one of his fellow-actors of the 
Jersey days, are not without interest. They 
convey some idea of his style as a correspondent, 
and, almost to the last, the irrepressible buoyancy 
of his spirits : — 

" I send you MS. and parts of a new farce, to 
be announced as follows : — 

A NEW AND OKIGINAL FARCE 

BY 

THE CELEBKATED AUTHOR OF 'BOX AND COX,' 

ENTITLED 

* DUNDREARY A FATHER.' 

Lord Dundreary Mr. Sothern. 



Jem Baker 
Parker (a Page) 
Nabliem (a Policeman) 
Mrs. Mountchessington 
Lady Dundreary 
Nurse ... 
Mrs. Nabhem 



Mr. Blakeley. 

Call Boy, dressed in buttons. 

2nd Low Com. 

Mrs. Lacy. 

Miss Pateman or Mrs. Smith. 

2nd Old Woman. 

1st Chambermaid. 



164 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHEKN". 

" We will play it on Tuesday, after ' A Lesson 
for Life.' It will draw, and only plays thirty 
minutes. Sefton telegraphed you to announce 
' A Lesson for Life,' Monday, Tuesday, Wednes- 
day, and Thursday, and 'A Favourite of Fortune,' 
and ' A Little Treasure ' (I play Maidenblusli) for 
Friday, and ' Grarrick ' and ' A Little Treasure,' 
Saturday. ' A Little Treasure ' only plays for an 
hour and a quarter, so you can play a rattling 
melodrama afterwards." 

" Many thanks for your trouble, and for the 
many jolly days you gave me and my dog ' Tiger ' 
in your stunning little yacht. This is a grand 
audience ! They literally howl with laughter ; 
but it's very stupid in a hotel all by myself. 
Glad your Othello knocked 'em silly. Did you 
collar any of Salvini's points ? 

DID 
you 
CUT YOUR 
THROAT ?" 

" 1 consider I play Claude Melnotte d — d badly ; 
but others don't, so I don't dispute the point." 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 165 

" What fishing tackle shall we bring down ? 
I would suggest a regular dinner-hour, and club 
together for the cost. I never was so snug and 
comfortable as I was when we three lodged to- 
gether, and your dear wife was so thoughtful and 
kind. Long life to the OLD TIMES, say I ! " 

" S.S. Adriatic. 

" Here we are at Queenstown. So far a lovely 
passage. Saker is now in irons, fastened to the 
scuppers. Manning is at the wheel, and we've 
only had five collisions. In fact, we quite miss 
them if they don't occur every hour or so. It's 
now half-past eleven a.m., and I have polished 
off four breakfasts. Mrs. Saker is hauling up 
the Union Jack in the mizzen-top, and Manning, 
in a fit of absence of mind, has just upset a 
lighthouse ; but no one seems annoyed. We 
have just knocked our keel off. Seven hundred 
and fifty emigrants all in handcuffs, — one man 
floating on the keel. 

" Ever yours, 

"E. A. S. 

"P.S.— Boiler just burst!!!" 



166 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

" As far as money goes, it's not worth my 
while returning to England. My position here 
(in America) is stronger than ever it was, and 
' The Crushed ' is a five-act HOWLER ! It has 
acknowledgedly walked clean over Dundreary s 
head. I have reconstructed the piece, and in 
many ways strengthened my part. Dear old 
Tiger died on my hreast on my way to Canada. 
I miss him more than I can convev. He knew 
he was dying." 

" My eight weeks' New York engagement was 
a big ' go.' Now I'm at Boston for four weeks. 
Then I go to Brooklyn, and again play in New 
York, at the Grand Opera House, for three weeks, 
4 on a certainty' of 810,500, i.e. £2500. Not 
so ' dusty ' for a poor wandering stroller, eh ? 
I am as well as ever ; but I still move the stage 
chairs and tables about (!), and worry property 

men. Don't engage me for , except for your 

benefit. Then my terms will be awful ! — i.e. 
nothing ! — but one cigar ! Be sure to remember 

me most kindly to . Were it not for two 

or three like him, I'd never play in England 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 167 

again, — that is to say, as far as ' money ' goes ; 
but the said money is not all in this world, thank 
God!" 

" I have written to Clarke. His fear is that 
a preliminary performance of ' The Crushed ' in 
Birmingham may take the gloss off my London 
appearance, and that the Birmingham critics may 
cut me up. I can't accept that view, for the Bir- 
mingham critics have ever been most generous 
in their opinions of my acting, though they have 

once or twice d d the pieces ; and they were 

right ! " 

" I've taken most comfortable lodgings in 
Brighton, where no loafing outsiders can coolly 
walk in and stare at me. The doctors say I'm 
better, and possibly I am a little ; but I'm very 
weak and ill, and another week will decide if I 
play next season or not. The amount of tissue 
that I have lost is startling. I am all but a 
skeleton." 

" Thank you for your note. Don't make any 



168 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

mistake. I never lose my spirits unless I am so 
utterly low that I cant joke and laugh. I am 
really and dangerously ill, so weak that I can't 
walk over a few yards. My own feelings tell me 
far more than any doctor could do. I couldn't 
have got as far as Yarmouth. I did the only 
thing that could be done, — that is, put myself 
under treatment at once, — and even at that I 
fear it was too late. I can scarcely walk. I am 
afraid that I must cancel all my American en- 
gagements, — a tremendous loss ! I was struck 
down as if by lightning. I never was so 
staggered ! " 

Here, too, are characteristic letters written 
in his later days to his earliest and life-long 
American friend, Mrs. Vincent : — 

"Lovely One, 

" Was it four we fixed for the dinner 
hour? Shall I expect the same little party as 
we were last night ? I hope so. 

" Ever yours, 

"Ned." 



sothern off the stage. 169 

"Dear Little Nice Person, 

" Why the didn't you reply to 

my letter ? Do come and see me. Eh ? Will you ? 
Wire ' yes/ and a carriage will meet you. If you 
don't answer this letter, we are mortal 

FOES 

for 

LIFE ! ! ! 

" Lovingly yours, 

"Ned. 
P.S. — " I've got some nice birds (lovely pets) 
for you. If you don't come, I'll have them boiled ! 

" Edward." 

"Beautiful Sinner! 

" Good ! W r e will be with you to- 
night about 11.15. 

" Thine, 
"S." 

" Beautiful Stalactite ! 

" Do not forget that you and Smith 
quietly feed with me at three o'clock to-day. ' The 



170 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

banquet ' will be on the festive board precisely at 

3.15. 
Wilkie Collins is coming purposely to meet you. 

" Yours cringingly, 

" E. A. SOTHERN." 

When serious, and, as it afterwards proved, 
fatal, illness struck him down, and he was com- 
pelled to give up his professional engagements, 
and was almost dragged away to the Continent, 
he wrote as follows to a dear friend : — 

" ' Here we K,' as the clown says, and w4rich, 
in the present instance, means, 'Here we R' at 
Cannes. Weather lovely and warm ; but, oh ! 
hasn't it been cold and disagreeable coming so 
far ! However, now we are here, we are going to 
enjoy ourselves ! I'm decidedly better, but L feel 
this enforced rest as though I w r ere handcuffed. I 
hate being made to do anything. Am I a mule ? 
I would have called on you when in London, but 
I was really too ' down in my boots ' to call any- 
where. This is my first real illness, and it cuts 
rather deeply into my spirits. I feel ' Chained to 
the Oar,' as Byron's play has it." 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 171 

A little on, and at Rome, the wonderfully 
elastic spirits had revived, and the worn-out man 
wrote — 

" This is such a wilderness of art and beauty ! 
Until I saw St. Peter's to-day I never saw any- 
thing of which the comic side didn't strike me 
first. Mind cannot conceive anything so be- 
wild eringly grand ! My pen feels sick when 
I attempt to even name its splendid vastness. 
See it, and you'll understand my feelings and 
thoughts. 

"The Colosseum! I saw it yesterday. Although 
it held nearly 100,000 people, its proportions are 
so exquisite that you would almost believe you 
could produce a neat comedy in its centre ; and 
the circumference is nearly a third of a mile ! 
What a city it must have been ! A perfect shower 
of art treasures bewilders the eye each minute. 
Rome is a place to live and die in. It utterly 
swamps all little conceit and pride. One goes to 
bed breathing the atmosphere of immortal genius. 
There ! You'll think I'm idiotically wild about 
the ' Eternal City.' Good ! Go on under that 
impression until you see it yourself,-— and then 



172 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

your wonder will be that my wretched quill didn't 
scribble for ever and ever ! " 

Very refreshing to him were the repeated 
voyages that he took across the Atlantic. His 
thorough enjoyment of them will be gathered 
from the following extract from a letter written 
in characteristic fashion on October 9, 1871 : — 

" Here we are on the gay and festive billow ! 
Wife a little, very little sick — Lytton ditto — Miss 
Eoselle a shade more so — 

I 
NOT AT ALL!!! 
Get up at eight. Bed at nine. That's your 
sort ! and never better in my 

LIFE! 
A splendid boat, and ditto passage. We expect 
to get to New York by Monday next, i.e. this day 
week. This will be posted the day we arrive. 
Food comes ! so I shut up. 

* # * * # 

" October 18, New York. 

" Here we are. Not sick all the voyage ! 
Not one hour ! Think of that ! " 

How well in the bright Dundreary and 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 173 

Gamch days his handsome face was everywhere 
known and recognized will be seen by the follow- 
ing anecdote. At the Theatre Koyal, Birmingham, 
he was fulfilling an engagement while the 
Michaelmas Onion Fair was being held. In 
those days, travelling theatres of the Richardson, 
and Bennett and Patch type, together with shows 
of all descriptions, were allowed in the busiest 
part of the town, and, attracted by the curious, 
bustling, noisy, and by no means unpleasing 
scene, Sothern was soon in its midst. Having 
a fancy to visit one of the penny theatres, and 
not anticipating recognition, he went up the steps 
leading to the platform on which, until a sufficient 
number to form an audience had been gathered 
together, the fantastically costumed performers 
paraded ; but, just as he tendered the modest 
entrance-fee, the proprietor of the establishment 
stepped forward, and said, " Pardon me, Mr. 
Sothern, but we could not think of charging the 
profession ! " Inside the booth it was touchingly 
curious to notice how these poor mouthing 
players acted " at " the theatrical idol of the 
day, and how pleased they seemed when he 



174 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

good-naturedly and unrestrainedly applauded their 
melancholy efforts. It is perhaps needless to add 
that at the conclusion of the performance the 
delighted company had ample opportunity for 
drinking Lord Dundreary s health. 

Sothern had a wonderful power of winning 
the affection of men. At the hospitable table 
of Henry Irving I once met the American trage- 
dian, the late John McCullough. Turning to 
me in the course of the evening, he said, " I am 
told you are intimate with Ned Sothern," and 
when I replied " Yes," he said, as if it were a 
matter of course, " Then you love him." 

And that, of all men who " off the stage " 
really knew him well, was true. 



( 175 ) 



CHAPTER III. 

S0THERN IN THE HUNTING-FIELD. 

During- the long runs of the successful Hay- 
market plays, when, no rehearsals being necessary, 
Sothern had what was for a being of his enthu- 
siastic temperament superabundant time upon his 
hands, outlets were required for his extraordinary 
flow of animal life and spirits. These took many 
forms, and in its turn fox-hunting occupied much 
of his time and attention ; indeed, he took to the 
sport dear to the hearts of most English gentle- 
men with a zeal that was absolutely intense. 
Endowed as he was in those days with an iron 
nerve, a splendid physique, and abundant means, 
the hunting-field became as much a part of his life 
as was the stage, and in it he probably enjoyed 
some of the happiest hours of his restless, eager 
life. It was difficult, of course, to hunt three or 



176 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

four days in the week, and to appear every 
evening on the stage, and it is not unlikely that 
the immense strain upon his resources that at this 
time he voluntarily put upon himself shortened 
his days ; but he loved his horses and the music 
of the hounds ; he could not disappoint himself; 
and he never, whatever the cost might be, dis- 
appointed the public. 

He attributed his remarkable immunity from 
misadventure, which might have interfered with 
his performances, to the extreme care with which 
he gave instructions to his grooms and coachmen 
as to the times and places at which they were to 
meet him. He invariably gave each man his 
directions in writing, so that there could be no 
mistake, and he exacted from all his servants the 
most implicit obedience to orders. In this way 
his plans were carefully made, and as carefully 
carried out. 

Notwithstanding these elaborate precautions, 
mistakes were sometimes very nearly made. One 
day that he was out with the Surrey Stag Hounds, 
he had a very narrow escape of missing his per- 
formance at the Haymarket. Owing to the 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 145 

bearing date January 10, 1861, that he wrote from 
New York : — 

u As for myself, I have (in acting) much im- 
proved since we parted, and I have been educating 
myself for London. When I do make my appear- 
ance there it will be in one of my own pieces. I 
have now written four pieces — two six acts, and 
two five acts. First, an adaptation of Octave 
Feuillet's French novel, ' The Romance of a Poor 
Young Man ; ' second, * Buffalo ; ' third, ' Sus- 
pense ; ' fourth, ' Redemption,' founded on a 
piece now making a sensation in Paris. I have 
also two more in hand. I often write all night 
when I am in the humour. I feel sure of my 
success in ' Suspense ' in London. In every city 
I open in that part, and invariably carry all before 
me. I write to an old friend, else I would not 
pen so egotistical a letter ; but I know all news of 
my progress pleases and interests you. I have 
not printed anything yet, nor shall I till I have 
played out their novelty." 

It was not until long after he came to London 
that Sothern required a new play, and then, as 
we have seen, he put these pieces of his own 

10 



146 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

upon the shelf, and wisely entrusted himself 
to the experienced and popular pens of such 
dramatists as Tom Robertson, Tom Taylor, 
John Oxenford, Watts Phillips, and Westland 
Marston. It is interesting, however, to note 
that Sothern had himself written a play on the 
subject of " The Hero of Romance," with which 
the last-named author had supplied him. In his 
pleasant memoirs, Mr. Bancroft records how, when 
he was a member of the stock company at Dublin, 
in the heyday of Dundreary s success, Sothern, 
u afflicted with the mania that his true vocation 
was that of a serious actor," unsuccessfully revived 
a powerful but gloomy play called " Retribution," 
which was originally acted at the Olympic by 
Alfred Wigan, George Vining, and Miss Herbert. 
Sothern played Count Priuli, Mr. Bancroft was 
Oscar de Beaupre, — and there is reason to believe 
that this was another of the dramas that the 
young actor had previously adapted for his own 
use in America. The connection between Sothern 
and Robertson dated as far back as the days when, 
as " Douglas Stuart," the actor was a member of 
the Wolverhampton stock company, and when a 



SOTHERX OFF THE STAGE. 147 

piece (there is some evidence to show that it was 
a crude and early version of " David Garrick ") 
was rehearsed under the superintendence of the 
young dramatist. Mr. William Rignold, the 
well-known actor, was then the conductor of 
the orchestra of Jive (!), and well remembers the 
occasion, though (conductors have to sit through 
so many pieces !) he cannot be quite certain as to 
the play. That Sothern wrote these plays of his 
in stormy times, will be gathered by a further 
extract from the letter from which I have 
quoted : — 

" Times are fearful here," he wrote ; " civil 
war sure, and next time you hear from me I may 
be writing with a pen in one hand and a blunder- 
buss in the other ! But, joking apart, affairs here 
are in a terrible state, and revolution is inevitable. 
Next Monday I open for two nights at Phila- 
delphia — the ' Walnut ; ' thence to Washington, 
and afterwards to Baltimore ; but before my 
Philadelphia engagement is through it's more 
than possible that Washington may be a mass of 
burning ruins. In May I'm sure to come to Eng- 
land, if not before. Don't make any engagement 



148 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

for me. I prefer landing clear, then I can see 
how the land lies. The theatres are closing up 
here right and left. Washington and Baltimore 
are keeping open now solely for my engagement, 
in the hope that I may pull up business." 

In an old scrap-book that, during the strug- 
gling American days, Sothern, with characteristic 
method, kept, there is an advertised outline of 
the play called " Suspense," which, in good old- 
fashioned style, runs as follows : — 

"BENEFIT AND LAST APPEARANCE BUT ONE OF 
MR. SOTHERN. 



THIS EVENING, SEPT. 28, 1860, 

WILL BE PRESENTED 

MR. SOTHERN'S NEW FIVE-ACT DRAMA,; 

ENTITLED 

SUSPENSE. 

Jules E'Alber ... Mr. Sothern. 

" Synopsis of Scenery and Incidents. 

" ACT I.— The story of Jules' courtship- 
Marie's dislike to a country life — ' This sea always 



S0THERN OFF THE STAGE. 149 

the same ! ' — Entrance of Jules D'Alber —Her 
husband — Jules' dream — 'A fairy vessel, with 
sails of white satin and silver cords ' — A specu- 
lation — A rapid fortune — ' You shall have your 
castle, believe me ! ' — The whistle — The gallant 
Henri — The arrival of the bonnet — The wager — 
Ten bonnets against one kiss — Entry of the crew 
and their tribes — Away to the christening — 
Michael's description of his lady love — ' She can 
lift a barrel of cider ' — His resolve to accompany 
Jules on the voyage — Return of the party after 
the christening of the schooner — Song and chorus 
— Drink to the crew — They weigh anchor in 
twenty minutes — The voyage begins — ' The sailor 
knows not if he may ever return ' — The parting — 
The letter explaining all — ' Farewell ! Grod bless 
you all ! Farewell ! ' — Now to sea — Marie's distress 
— Henri's treachery — ■' I can give it her to- 
morrow ' — His sudden jealousy of Antoine — 
Alone ! alone ! — Lapse of twelve months. 

" ACT II. New Scene. — Antoine's house and 
garden — Packing up — The arrival of a Parisian 
friend — Treatise on love — The omnibus — Marie ! 
— Check and counter-check — The watch-dos: — 



150 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

4 1 must muzzle him ' — Octave tired of the horse- 
pond — ' She loves me ' — La Dumond — The old 
nurse — ' Ha ! another watch-dog.' 

"ACT III. New Scene.— Room in D'Alber's 
house — Night — Octave's first effort as confidant 
— His first love — ' At a baker's ' — The silk 
window — Henri's jealousy and disinterested advice 
— The storm at sea — Malapropos visit of Antoine 
— The temptation — Trials of love — The rivals — 
The quarrel — fc Hark ! it is my husband ! ' — Jules' 
sudden return in the midnight storm, after a 
twelvemonth's absence — The painful reception — 
Joy and sorrow — The invitation — ' Remember to- 
morrow ' — La Dumond's determination to reveal all 
to her master — The love-letter a silk window — 
' Let me not think, or I shall go mad ' — ' My poor 
master, I have much to tell you ' — ' Speak ! I am 
prepared for all.' 

" ACT IV. Scene — Jules' house — Morning — 
' My wife — My friend — Let me not forget 'tis 
with them I love to deal ' — The crew's present — 
The breakfast — The story of Henri's life saved in 
a shipwreck of Jules' — Taimts and insults — ' Let us 
smoke in the garden ' — The duel arranged — The 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 151 

seconds — Jules' instructions to Henri with the 
sabre — ' May your success in this encounter be 
equal to your loyalty and trust ' — Now engaged ! 
— ' Are you afraid ? — I cannot afford to love you 
yet.' 

" ACT Y. Scene— Jules' house— Night— The 
letter — Confession and flight — Abrupt arrival of 
Jules D'Alber — The treasures of jewels and gold 
— Remembrance — The fairy has returned to her 
home — ' What are you looking at so earnestly, 
Marie ? ' — Ten o'clock — The hour is past — ' Too 
late ! too late ! ' — ' Did I not know your love, 
your loyalty, and trust, I should imagine that you 
contemplated treachery, Marie ! ' — * Nay, I swear ' 
— ' You lie, perjured woman, you lie ! ' — The cries 
of those dying in agony of soul, as well as body, 
borne on the wind — Death ! ruin ! misery ! the 
reward of treachery — Sailors' chorus and departure 
— Mighty Octave ! receive once more in thy 
bosom thy deceived and heart-broken son ; hence- 
forth thou art my only country, my only home — 
France, farewell, for ever ! — Alone ! alone ! " 

Surely, when Sothern talked of commencing 
his much-coveted London career in a play of this 



152 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

type, his expectation was that he would star at 
the Adelphi rather than at the Haymarket; and 
yet throughout this preposterous melodramatic 
synopsis of a piece in which, no doubt, the actor- 
author thoroughly enjoyed himself, one can trace 
the humour of the destined Lord Dundreary. The 
" old nurse " of the second act was very possibly 
an ancestress of the ancient domestic who was 
responsible for the infant training of Brother Sam ; 
and it is easy to believe that " another watch-dog" 
was the progenitor of the famous animal that was 
strong enough to wag his own tail. Be this as it 
may, it is certain that while Sothern loved playing 
the hero of pieces of the " Suspense " description, 
he was always most keenly alive to the absurdities 
of the situations in which he on these occasions 
found himself. 

There are other things in this old scrap- 
book that, although they deal with Sothern as an 
actor, may (inasmuch as they show the records 
of his early days that he cared to keep) be 
appropriately quoted in my " Off the Stage " 
chapter. There are criticisms, good, bad, and 
indifferent, on his acting as Count Priuli, in 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 153 

" Retribution ;" Puff; Felix Featherley, in Stirling 
Coynes comedy, " Everybody's Friend ; " and the 
hero of " The Marble Heart." Concerning the last- 
named performance, a critic wrote, " The opening- 
scene, indicating ' a dream,' typical of an artist 
sculptor's studio at Athens, gives to view the 
statues of Alcibiades, Gorgos, Diogenes, the three 
Graces, with the loving slave Thea, and Phidias 
(who foreshadow Marie and Raphael in the reality 
or sequel). This scene was altogether wrongly 
represented, and always has been so in this 
country, but we never witnessed the absurdity 
before of putting the fond Phidias in Roman cos- 
tume. Mr. Sothern made him up in a Roman 
shirt, Roman sandals, and Roman armour sleeves. 
Ye Grecian gods ! well may you have looked so 
sorrowful at the absence of the Athenian tunic 
and conthurni ! In fact, Mr. Sothern reminded us 
more of his Jason in the tragedy of ' Medea,' or 
an insane gladiator who has been mesmerised, 
than a Grecian." There are many interesting 
allusions to his performance as The Kinchin in "The 
Flowers of the Forest," which was evidently a 
very popular one (remarkable in its disguise, and 



154 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN\ 

admirable in its minutice) in America, and which 
he played after as well as before his Dundreary 
success ; and there is a little before-the-curtain 
speech in connection with the last-named imper- 
sonation that is well worth recording. It was at 
Albany that, having responded to an enthusiastic 
call, Sothern said, " Ladies and gentlemen, I 
hardly think it customary to make a speech on 
the first evening of a performance, such things 
being generally kept in reserve until the evening 
of a benefit. But since you have insisted upon it, 
I must heartily thank you for your attention and 
laughter at one of the most absurd performances 
ever seen on the stage. I have endeavoured to 
make Lord Dundreary a caricature — a burlesque 
of the broadest type, upon the silly and contempt- 
ible fops we everywhere meet. If I have done so 
to your satisfaction I am satisfied. I have to ask, 
however, that you will not judge of my merits by 
the performance — it is absolutely too silly. I trust, 
however, before the close of my engagement, to 
appear before you in parts of some merit, when I 
hope to give you an opportunity to judge of my 
abilities." 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 155 

Poor Sotliern ! How great must his mortifi- 
cation have been when he found that the inane 
Dundreary absolutely ruined the budding pros- 
pects of the gallant hero of " Suspense." 

And yet, as I have hinted, there is no doubt 
that all the time that he was with the most 
energetic earnestness playing these ideal parts, he 
had an eye on the ludicrous and burlesque side of 
them. In proof of this, this very scrap-book shows 
that while he was revelling in his own version 
of " The Romance of a Poor Young Man " (" The 
Hero of Eomance " of subsequent Haymarket 
days), he would from time to time appear in what 
he called the " farcical tragedy " of " The Romance 
of a Very Poor Young Oysterman." 

This venerable collection of newspaper cuttings 
contains, from a New Orleans journal, the follow- 
ing somewhat odd account of the origin of Tom 
Taylor's play, " Our American Cousin " : — 

" During the years 1850-51, when the ' World's 
Fair ' in the ' Crystal Palace,' on the banks of the 
k Serpentine,' in Hyde Park, London, was the 
great attraction to the wonder-loving, the United 
States were better and more numerously repre- 



156 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

sen ted by people than any other country. In the 
current twelve months it is estimated fifty thousand 
Americans visited the great metropolis of Eng- 
land, and we all remember the furore some of our 
Yankees created. Hobbs' locks were placed on 
the doors of the Lord Chamberlain's offices ; Colt's 
revolvers were in the holsters of every British 
cavalry officer ; Connecticut baby -jumpers were 
in the royal nursery ; and Massachusetts patent 
back-acting, self-adjusting, rotary motion, open- 
and-shut mouse-traps were the terror of even 
aristocratic rats. Lord John Russell ' guessed ' 
and ' calculated ' on the ' Papal Aggression Bill ; ' 
Palmerston and Disraeli 'whittled,' one on, the 
other around the Woolsack ; and through the 
columns of the elegantly worded Court Circular, 
we learned that at a particular fraction of an 
hour, on a particular day of the week, her most 
gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria, aided by the 
Royal Consort, His Highness Prince Albert, 
together with the whole royal family, indulged 
in three half-pints of ' pea-nuts ' and four and the 
two-sixteenths of our genuine ' pumpkin-pies ; ' 
while Cardinal Wiseman and the Bishop of 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 157 

London were seen playing ' poker ' over two stiff 
* Bourbon whisky-slings ;' in a word, everything 
was Yankee with the cockneys, who pronounced 
their cousin the only individual elevated to an 
equal capacity with the titillating, pulverized 
particles of the tobacco-plant — in other words, 
' up to snuff.' This state of things naturally 
caught the attention of the dramatic world, and 
a comedian of the Yankee school, named Josiah 
Silsby, visited London, where and when Tom 
Taylor, the facetiously called ' author,' imme- 
diately brought his ' adaptation ' pen to work 
and produced * Our American Cousin,' in which 
Mr. Silsby was to play at the Adelphi Theatre 
the then leading character of Asa Trenchard. To 
Mr. Ben Webster, the lessee of the Adelphi, this 
play was sold by Tom Taylor for the sum of £80. 
Mr. Webster held it in his study, and on recon- 
sideration, as the year 1851 was coming to a 
close, and the Yankee mania was dying away, 
declined putting the piece on the stage, and by 
way of a compensation and consideration to Silsby 
for breaking up the unexpired engagement be- 
tween them, and a desire to have Madame Celeste 



158 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

as a 'star' at the Adelphi, he (Mr. Webster) 
made Silsby a present of the manuscript of the 
play of ' Our American Cousin.' On reading it, 
Silsby came to the conclusion that it was an 
ineffective piece, and placed it ' on the shelf 
until his return to America, when he rehearsed 
it in California. Again it was doomed to the 
shelf without the public getting a view of it. 

" Years passed, and in the meantime Tom 
Taylor, thinking because Silsby died that ' Our 
American Cousin' was a manuscript in the basket 
of oblivion and ' rejected addresses,' and having 
a copy of it, placed the same in his New York 
agent's hands, who in due course sold it to Laura 
Keene for a thousand dollars. On the production 
of the piece for the first time, Mrs. Silsby, the 
widow of the comedian, remembering the name 
and the various characters, having been present 
at the rehearsal in California, searched over the 
old papers of her late husband, and then found 
the original manuscript, with the following super- 
scription in Josiah Silsby's own handwriting, 
' Our American Cousin, by Tom Taylor. From 
B. Webster to J. Silsby.' The subject coming 



SOTHERN OFF THE STAGE. 159 

to the ears of Messrs. Wheatley and Clarke, the 
managers of the Arch Street Theatre, Phila- 
delphia, they bought the original manuscript 
from Mrs. Silsby, and commenced rendering the 
play, when a lawsuit was instituted between 
themselves and Miss Laura Keene, in which some 
interesting evidence was elicited, but none that 
sustained the Philadelphia managers in their case 
against' the shrewd and wily Laura. The piece, 
from its first night at Laura Keene's to the time 
of its withdrawal, was wonderfully attractive, 
and though played in every city of the Union 
since, has not been successful as a ' run,' save 
in such cities as a short distance made it con- 
venient for the imitators to visit, watch, and 
study the original performers. For instance, 
from Boston F. L. Davenport and Chanfrau, J. 
A. Smith and Warren, and from Philadelphia, 
Wheatley and Clarke, visited Laura Keene's in 
New York, and repeatedly studiously witnessed 
every movement, every ' gag ' or stage tact, and 
the entire affair was secretly taken down in short- 
hand by hired stenographers for these gentlemen. 
Hence, in only those cities has the piece been 



160 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

well rendered, and though the public have seen 
it already here, many have yet to see it more 
complete with its three original characters, and 
its chief one, Lord Dundreary . So much for the 
history of ' Our American Cousin.' ' 

If the history be a true one, it would then 
appear that when, in 1851, Charles Kean prophe- 
sied that Sothern would one day work his way 
in London, the piece in which his first great 
success was to be achieved was already written, 
and in the possession of Benjamin Webster. 

The book also gives a record of a benefit 
performance in which " Messrs. Jefferson and 
Sothern were immensely funny ' in Box and Cox J 
paraphrasing the points of the piece in the most 
unblushing manner to suit the circumstances of 
their own professional associations. For instance, 
instead of Box asking Cox if he had 'a straw- 
berry mark on his left arm,' and, after receiving 
a negative answer, exclaiming, 'Then you are 
my long-lost brother ! ' Mr. Sothern said, ' You 
have the mark of a thneeze on your left arm ? ' 
' No,' replied Mr. Jefferson. ' Then,' cried Mr. 
Sothern, 'you are my long-lost American cousin!" 



S0THERN IN THE HUNTING-FIELD. 177 

non-arrival of the train at the station where he 
expected to meet it, he was compelled to ride 
across country to a junction, and there telegraph 
for a special engine, which, after some delay, was 
obtained. By bribing the driver, he induced him 
to out-run an express train which was on their 
heels, and got into town, and to the theatre, just 
as the hour for raising the curtain had struck ; 
but, by pulling a pair of "Dundreary" trousers 
over his hunting-breeches, and hastening his other 
preparations, he was able to respond to the sum- 
mons of the call-boy when it came. 

What a strain must this sort of thing have 
been, even upon his wonderful constitution ! No 
rest, no meal, the excitement of the saddle, and 
the anxious journey to town exchanged for the 
exacting drolleries of Dundreary, the vociferous 
applause of a crowded audience, and a subse- 
quent supper with anxious-to-be-amused, " good- 
natured " friends. Early the next morning, 
however, Sothern would be off to the nearest — or, 
as the whim might strike him — the furthest, 
hunting fixture. 

In those days Buckstone, who had the greatest 

12 



178 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERX. 

contempt for this peculiar form of eccentricity, 
and who had made up his mind that Sothern must 
sooner or later either break his neck or fail to put 
in an appearance at the right moment, had always 
one of the old comedies ready to put upon the 
stage (after a few words of apology) at an 
instant's notice. He was never on Sothern's 
account, however, called upon to change his bill. 
The exhausted, and often half-famished fox-hunter 
always — by hook or by crook — managed to make 
his stage entrance at his exact time. 

His love of the sport, and his fondness for the 
horses that were his sharers in it, will, perhaps, 
be best exemplified by some extracts from the 
letters which at that period he regularly wrote to 
an equally enthusiastic fox-hunting friend. Almost 
at random I take from them as follows : — 

" I was riding my brown mare, * Kate,' and 

she carried me magnificently. T is right 

about the post and rails. They were so stiff and 
high that several men shouted at me not to go at 
them (remember, we had been going nearly an 
hour !) ; but this nigger's blood was up, and over 
we spun, ' Kate ' clearing them in lovely style, 



SOTHERN IN THE HUNTING-FIELD. 179 

only four in the whole field following. Five 
minutes more, and a check, and then all's over. I've 
a nasty sore throat, and I can't hunt to-day, nor 
yet to-morrow, I fear. Too bad ! So near the 
wind-up of the season ! Remember, I expect you 
to finish up with the Queen's." 

" As you did not turn up, I went with Heath- 
cote's instead of the drag, and we had a splendid 
day. I had to leave * Kate ' behind at Leather- 
head, and got to the theatre just in time to go on ! 
To-day I have been studying hard since nine ('tis 
now four), and to-morrow I go with the Queen's. 

B rides the seventeen-hander to-morrow, with 

the Prince's Harriers, for an eighteen-stone man 
to see. I bought him to sell, so of course I shall 
sell. 'Kate' and 'Blazes' can do all my work. 
Do you know a £150 or £200 man who wants a 
fast, perfect hunter and hack, no fault, no vice, 
a non-refuser, and clever over every kind of 
fence ? " 

" Such a day, yesterday, with Heathcote's 
stag-hounds ! Three-quarters of an hour — no 



1 80 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

road — without a check! Fifteen minutes, and 
away we go again ! I went seventeen miles, and 
then came to grief in a big ditch, which threw 
me out. I never saw dogs go such a blazing 
pace. We were ten minutes behind them towards 
the end of the run." 

" A good average day with the Queen's to-day. 
If all right I shall hunt in Leicestershire Monday 
and Tuesday. Is Wednesday's meet a good one 
with the Warwickshire, or North Warwickshire ? 
If so I might come to Birmingham and hunt. All 
depends how I am. I enjoyed my day to-day, but 
the fences did look BIG ! " 

" ' Topsy ' is nearly fourteen years old — no, 
not so much, — she was rising seven when I got 
her, and I've had her six years. She's never 
known a day's illness, and in single or double 
harness is simply perfect ; but her action is too 
corky and rolling for the saddle, though I rode 
her for more than a year. She has no vice, and is 
as gentle as a child. I gave either £160 or £140 
for her and another horse. I bought her of -, 



SOTHERN IN THE HUNTING-FIELD. 181 

the horse-dealer, who can tell you all about her. 
I believe she is perfectly sound, and, with care, 
good for another thirteen years. £100 for the 
two is the very lowest figure I would take, and 
they are worth every halfpenny of it. Go and 
try them, have them examined, drive them your- 
self, and I don't care a straw whether vou have 
them or not ! There ! That's business ! " 

" I arrive" (this was a telegram dated Septem- 
ber 14, and referring, of course, to cub-hunting) 
" at five past one, and go direct to the theatre. 
Two charming runs this morning." 

Then follows a memorandum in his friend's 
handwriting : " Received at 10.45 a.m. Sothern 
was hunting at 5 a.m. with the Duke of Beaufort's 
Hounds at Badminton. He arrived in Birming- 
ham at 1.5 p.m., rehearsed for three hours, dined 
with me, and was ready for acting at 7 p.m. Not 
a bad day's work ! " 

" We had a poor day of it yesterday, but still 
we had lots of fencing. I had a nice opportunity 
on ' Blazes ' of pounding the huntsman, who 
looked so crestfallen that I gave him a sovereign 



182 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERtf. 

as a sop. After this little incident the various 
short runs consisted of the huntsman's trying to 
pound me! Consequently, we had it entirely to 
ourselves all day, and he picked out the damnedest, 
baulkingest, biggest (I never could spell that word, 
and I'm not sure whether there oughtn't to be two 
or three more 'g's' in it!) fences he could find. 
He rode a grey thoroughbred, and he and ' Blazes ' 
had a lively time of it ! To-morrow I go with the 
Queen's, but a bad country, near Uxbridge. I'm 
game for Wednesday, or any other day this week, 
with the North Warwickshire or the Pytchley." 

" By invitation of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, 
I went to Victoria Station this morning" (the 
Prince, by the way, frequently sent for him to go 
down to the meets in his royal carriage) " to 
accompany him in his ' special ' to Horley ; but the 
infernal snow stopped us, and here I am at the 
Cedars again as cross as a bear ! I'd a grand day 
on Saturday with Heathcote's. Had to take a 
4 special ' myself from East Grinstead to Clapham 
Junction. Got to Richmond 7.10, on the stage 
7.30. 



SOTHERN IN THE HUNTING-FIELD. 183 

" I had a clinking run yesterday, and as fast 
as any I ever was in. I rode a powerful six or 
seven year old brown Irish horse, up to fifteen 
stone, beautifully temperate, a lovely hack, so 
corky ; — A 1 action, fast enough for any hounds 
(carried me amongst the first half-dozen all the 
run), and a bold, grand fencer. Steady in single 
and double. He's been very neatly fired over the 
curb bones, but is as sound as a bell. I was 
awfully tempted to buy him, but I have already 
too many." 

" ' The Fenian ' is a Belfast horse, and has 
won several second-class Irish steeplechases. His 
temper was against him, but all I can say is, I 
never rode a better-mannered animal. He is a 
shade too fast at his fences, but does not rush. 
Indeed, he is so good that I dread finding out 
some idiotic peculiarities in him that he is keeping 
in the background to surprise me with some fine 
day. ' Norah ' I bought at auction in Liverpool. 
I sprained ' Kate's ' back in a brook nine feet deep. 
We simply disappeared ! In her struggle tp get 
out she hurt her back, and I fear I can't hunt her 



184 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

for weeks, if ever; but she's all right for double 
harness. It's a sad blow, for I am so fond of her ; 
but ' The Fenian ' can run rings round her. 
Whether he can fence as cleanly remains to be 
seen. I daren't hope for it, for ' Kate ' was the 
cleanest, safest fencer I ever sat. Alas ! alas ! " 

" Up to my eyes in study and rehearsals, but 
managed a day with the Queen's yesterday. We'd 
an awfully bad run. I rode my new horse, ' The 
Fenian,' and a friend rode my new mare, ' Norah.' 
They both went grandly. As for ' The Fenian," 
he's the best mover I ever was on — handsomer 
than ' Blazes/ and much faster. Coming from a 
stone-wall country, the banks and ditches seemed 
to puzzle him a little. Some he calmly took in a 
tremendous stride. Hedges he ignored, and went 
bang through them. A rattling fall or two will 
cure him of that fancy. I was cautioned, ' Mind 
he doesn't unseat you with his tremendous 
bounds.' On the contrary, he never even moved 
me in the saddle ; charmingly elastic, but so 
beautifully smooth in his action. He's up to 
fourteen stone and close on thoroughbred. He 



S0THERN IN" THE HUNTING-FIELD. 185 

blistered my groom's hands all over when merely 
exercising him, and it only proves how they ruin 
horses' mouths, for when he found he could play 
with his bit, and wasn't going to be worried, a 
child could have held him. He's worth £200 
(steady in single and double). I gave £50 ! ! ! 
Why ? He's not every one's animal." 

In truth, Sothern's animals (for in those days 
he would ride anything) were not every one's 
animals, and, like all really ardent sportsmen, he 
delighted in thinking that he had " picked up for 
an old song " a valuable horse, that less adven- 
turous men would hesitate to mount. Here is 
an account of a hunter of this description that 
rejoiced in the name of " Spots " : — 

" I lunched to-day with a swell hunting-man, 
who does the Duke of Beaufort's regularly ; went 
to look at his horses, etc. I asked him if he knew 
' Spots.' He replied, ' Rather, considering I've 
been after him for two seasons.' " 

S. What's his character ? 

The other. The best animal in the country — temperate, but 
bold and very fast. 

S. Why didn't you buy him ? 

The other. Baillie wanted £300 for him. 



186 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

S. Is he worth it ? 

The other. Every penny ; but it's over my figure. 

8. Tve bought him ! 

The other. The devil you have ! 

S. (Nods). 

The other. Well, I'm d — d ! How on earth did you get 
him ? 

S. (Explains — and price, etc.). 

The other. Well, I can't account for his not selling him to 
some of our men. He's losing his nerve, and " Spots " was 
getting too much for him, temperate as he is. You've got a 
treasure, and if you don't like him, send him here. 

" As to nags, the only one you've not seen, I 
think, is ' Limerick.' Powell of Market Harboro' 
gave 280 guineas for him last season. Williams, 
the vet., bought him at Tat's on spec, and let 
me have him for £60. The cause of his sale was 
a jarred leg. I had him fired, and he is now as 
sound as a bell, and simply a perfect model, — 
decidedly the most perfectly shaped horse / ever 
had. A very dark brown, close on thorough- 
bred ; up to fourteen stone ; a long, low 'un ; 
magnificent shoulders, and hips at an enormous 
angle ; and these two points meet so close that 
a saddle covers nearly all his back, — and still he's 
a long horse ! Six-feet-two girth, and from his 
knee to his fetlock joint is just a hand's span ! 



SOTHERN IN THE HUNTING-FIELD. 187 

Powell says lie was one of his very best horses. 
In June I shall begin to exercise him in double 
harness, and thus get him into condition without 
putting weight on his back till September, when 
I believe he'll prove a ' 300 guinear.' ' 

" I am going to sell ' Grasshopper' and 'Topsy,' 
my two carriage horses, because I cannot hunt 
either of them ; and, for the future, I will have 
nothing but thoroughly useful horses. I shall 
then have Chapman's two horses, and ' Kate,' and 
the grey, i.e. four carriage horses, or hunters, or 
hacks, and NO MORE ! ! I've only one neck, 
and I've determined to have four good ones." 

" If he only strikes on the fetlock joint — I 
mean, if the blow is confined to a small place — 
there is nothing like an india-rubber ring to hang 
loosely over the fetlock joint. If he hits a space 
of three or four inches, a ring would be useless, 
and a cloth boot with a leather side-piece and 
four little buckles is your game. But if it's the 
hind fetlock, the enclosed is the best pattern, as 
it never turns, which is a great point. The 



188 EDWARD ASKEW SOTIIER?s T . 

leather should be moulded into the shape of the 
joint, so as to sit on snugly. India-rubber boots 
are d — nable — stop the circulation, etc., and 
should never be used unless as a bandage for a 
weak tendon. There ! That's all / know about 
it ! " . 

" A capital day on Saturday " (the letter from 
which this is an extract was written from Edin- 
burgh), "and 'Kate' distinguished herself over 
some nasty doubles — a very rare fence in this 
part of the country, and, consequently, a regular 
stopper to most of the field." 

" I've ridden ' Spots ' with harriers. His 
character is quite correct. He's reasonably fast 
(quite as fast as 'Kate'), and goes through dirt 
as if it were a lawn ! He won't ' lark ; ' but get 
him with the hounds, and he's a gorgeous fencer — 
possibly a shade too quick ; but when he knows 
me better he'll tone down. Chapman gives a 
very shy account of ' Limerick.' He says he's a 
1 floppy ' jumper, and a tremendous puller ! We 
shall see ! I mean to hunt him next week with 



S0THERN IN THE HUNTING-FIELD. 189 

the Cheshire, and shove that double snaffle in his 
mouth, and let him pull. If ' Limerick ' is not a 
fine fencer, I'll never judge by form again as long 
as I live." 

" If you want that black screw exercised for a 
week or two (say eight or ten days from this), you 
can lend him to me to take to the Duke of Beau- 
fort's. You can have my £700 grey any time 
after the 2nd of February — to hunt her tail off, 
if you like. There ! that's an offer ; and when 
she comes you can jump her over your poor 
black horse, making him previously stand on four 
bricks ! I go to the Duke of Leinster's on Mon- 
day for two days, then straight home for the 
reading of a new piece at the Haymarket." 

" Your telegram I got at the theatre, and I 
at once wired to Johnson to come with ' Kate ' 
and ' Blazes ' to the ' Hen and Chickens ' to- 
morrow, so please order two loose-boxes for the 
dear old souls. If they haven't loose-boxes I 
suppose I must be content with stalls. I shall 
hunt every day. The season is so nearly over, I 



190 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

must make the most of it, for once I return to 
town no more hunting ! I hear the theatre book- 
ing for the week is splendid, and as I had a 
tremendous house here last night at double the 
usual prices, I may go to the extravagance of 
having two hunters down. My argument is, 
work a little extra hard, and deserve therefore a 
little extra hunting." 

" Looking over a letter of yours, I find you 
want something about 15.3. What do you say 
to my chestnut mare ? You can have any mortal 
trial, and it is thoroughly understood that I don't 
care a straw if you don't like her, and, consequently, 
don't keep her. Why do I part ? Simply because 
with hounds she pulls too much for a cove with 
only one pulling arm to check her with, and she 
tires me. She is just on, if not quite, 15.3. 
Legs as hard as nails, never fill, a splendid 
feeder, no vice of any description, and steady, 
quite steady, in double and single harness. In 
the latter, she is always driven in a plain hansom 
cab, double ring snaffle, and doesn't pull one 
blessed ounce. To wind up, she can trot fourteen 



SOTHERN IN THE HUNTING-FIELD. 191 

miles an hour, and jump any earthly thing a horse 
can get over; but, as I said before, she's not my 
horse, 'cos she pulls too much after hounds. I'm 
going to (for the future) make all my beasts really 
useful ; they must do hunting and carriage- work." 

" I've got myself rather confused in my en- 
gagements. I'd forgotten I dine, hunt, and sleep 
at Rothschild's on Thursday. . . . We'd a gorgeous 
run with Rothschild's yesterday. ' Limerick 
pulls, but is a regular clinker, and can ' stay all 
day,' and the next as well ! ! " 

" I rode ' Limerick ' over Blackman's to-day, 
and a finer, more temperate fencer I never rode. 
Will his leg stand ? I doubt it. You've evidently 
got a clinker." 

" I've got an awfully sore throat ; knocked up 
in the middle of the performance last night, and 
entirely lost my voice. It's better this morning, 
though still very husky and painful. It's a bore, 
for I had arranged to hunt to-morrow. However, 
Tuesday, please God, will see me in the saddle 



192 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

again. I had three gorgeous days last week, and 
one bad one. I must run down soon and do a 
day with your North Warwickshire. Do they 
hunt on Mondays ? If so, I could come and stay 
Sunday night, and get up fresh on Monday. To- 
day I'm as heavy as lead." 

"' Limerick' went for thirty-five guineas. I 
missed his sale by five or ten minutes, or he would 
have run up to much more. He was a most steady, 
valuable horse for any class of work, but pulled 
too much in the hunting-field for me. I'm sorry 
you didn't get him. I'll sell you ' Miss Wilson ' 
for twenty-five guineas (I gave sixty). She's 
a big, strong, powerful mare, steady in single and 
double, and doesn't pull one ounce — literally ! 
She can trot easily twelve miles an hour ; she is 
particularly sound, and carries a lady charmingly. 
She is a perfect hack, and no vice. She has got a 
chronic cough, but that never interferes with her, 
and she is a slight high-blower, but never makes 
any noise in harness, however fastly driven, and 
only makes the slightest noise even at full gallop. 
A child can ride or drive her. I part with her as 



SOTHERN IN THE HUNTING-FIELD. 193 

I shall now be away for seven months, and con- 
sequently reduce my stable." 

With bare comment I give these passages from 
Sothern's fox-hunting letters. They will them- 
selves show the extraordinary energy and delight 
with which he pursued his exacting pastime ; how 
he loved his horses ; how minute and candid he 
was with regard to their capabilities and (a rare 
thing even with a thorough sportsman) their 
faults. 

The ink-pot into which I dip my pen is made 
out of a horse's hoof, and there is inscribed upon 
its silver lid, " The hoof of ' Blazes,' the favourite 
hunter of E. A. Sothern ; killed while hunting 
with Baron Rothschild's Hounds." Alas, poor 
" Blazes ! " His untimely death took place in 
March, 1868, and concerning it there is a little 
tale which my readers will, I hope, think worth 
telling. 

" I killed poor ' Blazes ' the other day," wrote 
Sothern, "with the Baron's hounds — jumped him 
into a road, met a cart at full trot ; the old woman 
in it got frightened, palled the wrong rein, and 

13 



194 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

up we came, smash — crack against each other. 
The result was fully eighteen inches of shaft 
broken off in the poor beast's body. I had him 
shot at once." 

When this unfortunate news was broken to 
the luckless animal's eccentric and not always 
too prudent groom (he bore the name of Johnson), 
he wept in a muddled way, and asked, " Oh, poor 
old * Blazes ! ' what did he say ? " Unable to 
resist even this melancholy occasion for a " sell," 
Sothern replied, " His last word was Johnson" 
and the answer was accepted in good faith ! 

The following extract from the Field of 
March 20, 1869, will give some notion of the 
dashing fashion in which he rode to hounds : — 

" During a run with the Essex Stag-hounds, 
on the 16th inst., Mr. Sothern (the celebrated 
comedian) was riding a pulling thoroughbred at 
one of the yawning Essex dykes, when a gentle- 
man unfortunately crossed him, cleared the ditch 
and bank, but rolled over, horse and all, on the 
other side. Mr. Sothern thereupon 'put ou 
steam ' to clear them, and his horse taking a neat 
'on and off' from the back of the fallen horse, 



S0THERN IN THE HUNTING -FIELD. 195 

as it was in the act of rising, landed safely a 
foot in advance of the head of the prostrate rider." 

That exceptional authority, Mr. Bowen May, 
the "father," as he is affectionately and appro- 
priately named, of the Queen's Stag-hounds, 
writes to me as follows : — 

" Sothern and I hunted together for years, 
and in one season with sixteen different packs 
of hounds, having followed the chase for five 
days a week. He always looked upon me as 
his Mentor, as I always took care to 4 pull him 
up,' even in the middle of a run with stag-hounds, 
so that he was able to keep his engagements at 
the theatres. On one occasion, when I was 
absent, he was with the Surrey Stag-hounds, 
and only kept an engagement at the Eichmond 
Theatre by running a special train from Three 
Bridges, and then by catching a down-train at 
Clapham Junction ; and then, having no time to 
change his garments, he appeared on the stage 
and played his part in a ' cover ' coat. The Prince 
of Wales always sent for him when H.R.H. 
went from Paddington and to the Slough meets, 
to join him in his railway-carriage. 



196 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

" Sothern was a bold rider, and was always 
well mounted, and as his horses were generally 
pullers, and as he had a damaged wrist, he could 
not hold them. Having to ' let them go,' and 
being only about a ten-stone man, he was always 
in the ' first flight ' with the packs, whether they 
were fox or stag hounds." 

In 1871, Sothern wrote from New York: — 

" We remain here eight weeks, then Boston 
for three, Philadelphia for three, etc., etc., etc., 
then New York again in April, and home in 
May. But I must come again in December and 
stay a year, and then retire and 

HUNT 
the rest of my LIFE ! ! ! " 

This dream was never realized, and, oddly 
enough, in later years, Sothern entirely lost his 
love of horses and hunting, declaring that salmon- 
fishing was the only sport worthy of the name. 
This he followed with the same eager and restless 
enthusiasm. 

"I am going," he wrote, "to have some 
magnificent salmon-fishing in June and July. I 
have rented thirty -nine miles of the best Canadian 



SOTHERN IN" THE HUNTING-FIELD. 197 

river, and I and three friends will whip it for six 
or eight weeks. It is eighty miles away from 
civilization. We camp out, Indian tents, bear- 
shooting, rising by daybreak, going to roost 
seven p.m., and leading the most primitive life 
possible. A friend of mine fished there last year, 
and the average weight of his salmon was 19 lb., 
the smallest 8 lb., the largest 39 lb." 

" You will find them the best and handsomest 
rods in England. I canght a 47 J lb. salmon the 
other day with my salmon-rod and a single gut, 
and my rod is precisely the same as yours." 

But Sothern was enthusiastic in small things 
as well as great. Here is a letter in which he 
speaks of a very ordinary-looking blackbird which 
he used to keep, and make much of, in a wicker 
cage at his house (this was after the bright Ken- 
sington " Cedars" days were over), No. 121, in 
Harley Street : — 

" I am glad you like the blackbird," he wrote 
(he was leaving on a prolonged provincial tour, 
and had begged me to find a home for the poor 



198 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

caged creature) ; "J was very, very proud of 
him." There is something refreshing in the 
thought that this actively engaged man, who 
was ever rolling two lives into one, could find 
time in which to be "very, very proud" of a 
rather inferior, and (as far as my experience of 
him went) an absolutely songless blackbird ! 



( 199 ) 



CHAPTER IV. 

SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 

No memoir of Sothern would be complete without 
allusion being made to bis curious and humorous, 
if not altogether satisfactory, mania for " practical 
joking." For the greater part of his life it abso- 
lutely possessed him, and it no doubt had its origin 
in the investigations into so-called " spiritualism," 
which in the pre-Dundreary American days he 
(with characteristic enthusiasm) occupied himself. 
The story of these researches, and their outcome, 
was so well told by himself in a letter that, in 
1865, he felt called upon to write to an English 
newspaper, that it may very fittingly form a 
commencement to this chapter. It ran as follows : — 

" Sir, 

" There is an article in the Spiritual 
Magazine in which I am referred to. I should 



200 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

not dream of noticing any article in any such 
publication, had I not found respectable and 
rational journals such as yours reproducing state- 
ments affecting my credit and candour. I con- 
sider it due to the conductors of the daily press 
of these countries, as well as to myself, to notice 
remarks on me and on my conduct when I find 
them transferred to their columns. Had they not 
been excavated from the gloomy obscurity of their 
original source they might never have attracted 
my observation, and certainly would never have 
obtained my notice. 

" Possibly it may be thought that I am doing 
this spiritual publication a service by bringing it 
into notice. I do not think so. When you pro- 
secute a pickpocket, you go before the bench as 
a matter of duty ; the pickpocket is certainly 
brought into public prominence for the time, but 
it is only that he may be the more effectually 
recognized, punished, and exposed. Nobody, I sus- 
pect, will be perverted to a belief in spiritualism 
by reading an exposition of spiritual writers. 

" Now for the article. The main count in the 
indictment against me is thus stated : — 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 201 

" ' A few years ago, a party of spiritualists in 
New York, composed chiefly of actors and act- 
resses, held regular sittings for the production of 
spiritual phenomena. One of the members of this 
circle was an actor named Stuart, who was re- 
cognized by all as a most powerful medium. The 
manifestations witnessed at these seances were so 
wonderful as to give to the meeting the distin- 
guishing title of 'The Miracle Circle.' They 
created so much interest that it was considered a 
special privilege to be admitted to this magic 
chamber. Mr. Stuart at that period was better 
known as Stuart the magnetiser, or magic worker, 
than Stuart the actor.' 

" The ' actor named Stuart ' is now better 
known as * the actor named Sothern.' Following 
sufficiently illustrious precedents, I used an as- 
sumed name when I entered on my profession, 
and I only resumed my own by the advice of 
my friend, Mr. James Wallack. The ' party of 
spiritualists ' was not composed chiefly of 4 actors 
and actresses.' It would have been none the 
worse if it had been ; but in reality it was com- 
posed of twelve gentlemen of high position in 



202 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

their respective professions, who, actuated by a 
common curiosity and interest, joined in a 
thorough, practical, and exhaustive investigation 
of the phenomena of ' spiritualism/ We were 
quite ready for either result : to believe it, if it 
were true ; to reject it, if found false ; and in the 
latter case I, at least, resolved in due time to 
expose it. For more than two years we had 
weekly meetings. At these, by practice, we had 
succeeded in producing not only all the wonder- 
ful ' manifestations ' of the professional ' media,' 
but other effects still more startling. We simply 
tried to reproduce the appearances and the results 
which we had heard of, and read of, and seen — 
and we succeeded. Pushing our practice and 
experiments further, we attained the capacity to 
execute feats much more remarkable than those 
presented at any of the spiritual seances. An 
American gentleman and myself took the part 
of the ' media ; ' the rest of the company assisted ; 
and I do not hesitate to say that we outdid 
anything ever attempted or accomplished by 
Home, or the Davenports, or any of the other 
more notorious spiritual exhibitors. 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 203 

" Not the least of our discoveries was that the 
whole thing was a myth. We did all that the 
spiritualists did, and more ; but we were our own 
' agents/ and had no need of recourse to super- 
natural influences, had we had the power to 
command them. We commenced our seances in 
a spirit of legitimate investigation ; we continued 
them for the sake of the amusement they gave 
ourselves and our friends. We became famous in 
a small way. We had to start an engagement 
book, and to make appointments. People came 
from all parts of America, and waited for their 
turn. We got into a larger line of business than 
any of the professional exhibitors, and we were 
extensively patronised. The only difference was, 
we didn't charge anything. We took no money, 
directly or indirectly. Our entertainment, being 
free, was liberally supported; and when I add 
that the evenings invariably wound up with a 
jolly little supper, given solely at our own 
expense, it may be understood that ' The Miracle 
Circle' was much favoured and warmly encouraged. 
The indulgence of our love of fun cost us some 
money, but yielded us an immensity of pleasure. 



204 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN". 

To speak colloquially, it was an expensive but 
extensive ' sell.' We did put pens under the table, 
and get signatures of Shakespeare, and Garrick, 
and other valuable autographs ; we did produce 
spirit-hands and spirit-forms ; people did float in 
the air — at least, we made our audience really 
believe they did, which was quite sufficient for 
our purpose and theirs. "We exhibited phenomena 
which were startling enough in all conscience, 
and we made our visitors believe in their reality. 
How we succeeded in doing this — how we made 
some of the most intelligent men in America 
believe that they really saw and felt what they 
only fancied they saw and felt — how we produced 
results the causes of which were not apparent to 
the physical senses of the spectators — how, in 
fine, we did things which must have seemed to 
be, and what many of our visitors believed to be, 
supernatural and miraculous, I do not intend to 
explain. We did them ; how we did them I do 
not feel any motive to declare ; but I have not 
the slightest hesitation in saying that we did 
not do them by spiritual agencies. Yet profes- 
sional and paid ' media ' came and saw, and them- 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 205 

selves avowed our superior power over ' the 
spirits ! ' 

" I have been told by many scientific persons 
— even in this city where I am now residing 
— that I am a ' wonderful psychologist.' It is 
extremely pleasant and very flattering to be told 
that. Perhaps I am a ' wonderful psychologist ' 
— I hope I am; but I doubt it. At all events, 
whatever psychological or quasi-spiritual powers 
I may possess, I have never exhibited them in 
public ; I have never made money by displaying 
them ; I have recognized the difference between 
performing an interesting and amusing delusion 
to entertain myself and a private company, and 
swindling the public by taking guineas from 
people for showing them as * spiritual manifesta- 
tions,' feats which I could perform by physical 
and mechanical forces of my own. 

" I do not know the Messrs. Davenport ; I 
never saw them but once, when I paid some 
fifteen shillings, I believe, and came away power- 
fully impressed with the conviction that either 
their supporters and believers were mad, or that 
I was, and yet with a comfortable belief in my 



206 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

own sanity. I had nothing to do with their 
memorable exposures in England and France. 

" The object of this writer in the Spiritual 
Magazine has been to represent me as having 
exhibited ' spiritual manifestations ' in America, 
and having exposed them here. I have stated, I 
hope clearly, that I did produce all the ' manifesta- 
tions ' and did exhibit them, but thev were not 
' spiritual,' and I did not exhibit them in public, 
nor for money. I therefore consider myself free 
from the imputations of having obtained money 
under false pretences, encouraged idle superstitions, 
or perpetrated blasphemous burlesques of sacred 
things. I look upon every spiritualist as either 
an impostor or an idiot. I regard every spiritual 
exhibitor who makes money by his exhibitions 
as a swindler. The things that these people do 
are not done by spiritual or supernatural means. I 
know that ; 1 have proved it. I have done all 
that they can do, and more. The history of 
' spiritualism ' in this country and America is, 
on the one hand, a chronicle of imbecility, 
cowardly terror of the supernatural, wilful self- 
delusion, and irreligion ; and on the other, of fraud 



SOTHERtf IN HIGH SPIRITS. 207 

and impudent chicanery, and blasphemous inde- 
cency. I do not say that there are not more 
things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in 
our philosophy ; but I do say, that as the result of 
such a practical investigation of ' spiritualism ' 
as I believe few other men have made, I must 
honestly and fearlessly denounce it as a mockery, 
a delusion, a snare, and a swindle. 

" Yours, etc. 

"E. A. SoTHERN. 

" Theatre Royal, Glasgow, December 6, 1865." 

Yes, these American spiritualistic experiments, 

and the success which attended them, undoubtedly 

gave Sothern his insatiable taste for practical 

joking. He had learnt how easily people could 

be gulled; he had become an adept in all the 

little arts and contrivances necessary for such 

purposes ; he had acquired a relish for " selling " 

(he used this word in his letter, and it was with 

him a favourite one) all with whom he came in 

contact, both friends and strangers ; and so 

when, in the days of his popularity and the long 

runs of his pieces, he had plenty of time on his 



208 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

hands, he mounted and furiously rode his hobby 
horse. 

Before I give instances of his more elaborate 
enterprises in this direction, I will speak of the odd 
freaks that he delighted to play with the post. 
On one occasion, when he was playing in a 
country theatre, the local postmaster refused to 
receive and forward a package because it was just 
a trifle over the regulation limits. Sothern was 
annoyed at what he considered official obstructive- 
ness, and, having obtained from the postmaster the 
precise limits (particularly with regard to weight) 
of the parcels he would receive, he went to a 
hatter's shop in the town, and purchased two 
dozen of empty hat-boxes of the usual cardboard 
make. These he addressed by aid of the local 
directory to the principal inhabitants of a notably 
breezy suburb, and from a dozen different offices 
had them posted. His delight at seeing the local 
postman staggering along in a high wind with the 
huge pile of hat-boxes on his back was infinite, 
and in the next town that he visited he repeated 
the performance, only varying it by addressing 
the two dozen boxes to one individual. Often and 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 209 

often, as he recalled the incident, have I heard 
Sothern say how much he would have given to 
have seen the face of this unknown person when 
the boxes had been stacked away in his hall. 

Playing pranks with the post became from 
this point his almost daily practice. He had his 
envelopes printed with all sorts of odd devices, 
such as, " Eefuge for Ee formed Atheists," 
" Mail Boat Betsy Jane" " Society for the Propa- 
gation of Pure Deism," " Troop Ship Crocodile" 
" Asylum for Confirmed Yirgins," " Court of 
Faculties," "Boodles' Bee Hive," and (these were 
evidently designed to strike terror into the soul 
of the nervous letter receiver) " Southwell Small- 
pox Hospital," " Home for Incurable Itch," and 
" Curious Specimen of Contagious Bedding." In 
the last named he would usually enclose a small 
piece of linen or a fragment cut from a blanket. 
Then he had a practice of addressing an envelope 
in pencil to a friend, say, in Brussels, writing to 
that friend to rub out the address and re-direct 
the letter in pencil to a friend in Glasgow, and so 
successively sending the letter round a dozen 
places until the envelope was almost covered with 

14 



210 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

postmarks. Then, having got it back from the 
last of his correspondents, he would erase the 
pencilled address, and, putting in ink the name 
and residence of a gentleman in a London Square, 
and enclosing au invitation to dinner for a date a 
month old, he would revel in the confident 
expectation that the recipient, utterly unable to 
conceive why a plainly addressed letter to " Mr. 
Suchaone, Lowndes Square," should have been 
sent round by Brussels, Glasgow, Dublin, Brighton, 
Inverness, Chester, Northampton, Cork, Scar- 
borough, etc., would indignantly complain to the 
Postmaster-General, who would in the usual 
routine send the letter again on its rounds to the 
bewilderment of all the postmasters. 

One of these extraordinary postmark-be- 
studded envelopes is before me now, stamped 
Edinburgh, Bradford, Glasgow, Kio de Janeiro, 
Liverpool, Dundee, London, Suez Canal, and, 
finally, Birmingham. 

Another trick of his was to withdraw the 
letters — anybody's letters — from the post-rack of 
any country house in which he might happen to 
be staying, and write on the outside of their 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 211 

envelopes such preposterous but perplexing mes- 
sages as, " I will bring the five peacocks with 
me on Saturday " (this to a lady living on a 
London flat !), " How are you getting on with 
the cockroaches now ? " and so on. By the way, 
he always used to declare that this old habit of 
his of writing messages on the reverse side of 
stuck-down envelopes (and he would frequently 
adopt this plan in the carrying on of his own 
correspondence) was the means of bringing in 
the useful halfpenny post-card. 

The liberties that he would take with his ad- 
dresses were extraordinary. Here is an example : — 

To 

Smith 
John ^ Smy the , Esq., 

(my throat's so sore it seems I can't 
even spell) 

Square, 

Blackhampton. 

Now and then some of Sothern's victims would 
attempt retaliation, but seldom with success ; and 
now that I am dealing with his post-office pranks, 
I may as well tell the following anecdote. A 
gallant officer in a cavalry regiment, whom Sothern 



212 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

had " sold," determined on revenge, and elabo- 
rately concocted a missive, purporting to be written 
by a fair lady, suggesting a rendezvous. The 
letter was carefully prepared on plain paper, 
was enclosed in an envelope without crest, 
monogram, or other distinguishing mark, and 
was duly posted ; but the gallant composer forgot 
that the plain paper he was using bore a water- 
mark with the name of his club. On receipt of 
the letter Sothern easily detected the attempted 
hoax, and proceeded to pay off its would-be 
perpetrator. He went to a shop in a side-street 
off Regent Street, and purchased from a dealer in 
human hair a long tress of the reddest hue and 
coarsest texture that he could find. Having had this 
love-lock carefully oiled by his groom, he attached 
to it a parchment label addressed, in feminine 

handwriting, to Captain , at, let us say, the 

Plungers' Club, where he knew it was the custom 
to place the members' letters on a large table in 

the hall. Captain (as Sothern well knew) 

happened to be out of town for a few days, during 
which time his brother-officers enjoyed the delight 
of inspecting the " auburn " tress, and, on his 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 213 

return to town, the pleasure of mercilessly chaff- 
ing their comrade. 

Another man who tried to pay back Sothern 
in his own coin by sending him a bogus telegram 
which took him away, on a fool's errand, to 
Liverpool, had an extraordinary punishment. 
With unexampled audacity, Sothern announced 
his too-daring friend's death in the papers, at the 
same time advertising the sale of his furniture by 
an auction, " at which only Jews would he allowed to 
purchase ! " 

The bogus telegram was an all-too-favourite 
instrument of warfare with Sothern himself, and 
he would think nothing of " wiring " to a friend 
in a distant part as follows : — 

" Poor Suchaone " (naming a complete 
stranger) " died last night at ten o'clock. Please 
arrange for the reception of his remains in your 
town to-morrow morning ; " and this would be 
followed by another, saying, " His poor wife and 
children will start by the 12.30 train. For pity's 
sake, meet and console them. You will find the 
wife pretty, and the children most interesting. 
Your kindness will be appreciated by all parties." 



214 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERtf. 

I think that it must have been these postal 
and telegraphic feats that set Sothern thinking 
that something odd and whimsical ought to be done 
with letter-carrying pigeons. Certainly I know 
that while filling a professional engagement in a 
provincial town, celebrated for the fanciers of 
" homing birds," he took extraordinary pains, and 
spent a good deal of money, to procure some of 
iC the right sort ; " but, except a marvellous story 
that he used with much unction to relate, I do not 
think that out of this notion anything came. I 
will relate it in his own words : — 

" I used to get a lot of fellows together in the 
billiard-room at home" (Sothern's circle of ac- 
quaintance was a large one, and on the occasions 
when this trick was aired he no doubt secured 
the attendance — and T was not one of them — of 
the most credulous among his friends), " and after 
we had smoked and chatted for a time some one, 
who would be in my confidence, would lead the 
conversation up to pigeon-flying and the wonder- 
ful exploits of the extraordinary birds in my 
possession. At this I would express annoyance, 
and my friends asking < Why ? ' I would say, ' Oh, 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 215 

nobody believes what my birds have done, and 
can do, and since I am very fond of them, and, 
after all, only keep them for my own amusement, 
I don't somehow care to hear them slightingly 
talked of. Let us change the subject.' After 
this, of course, no one would change the subject, 
and some extraordinary pigeon yarns were told 
by my confidant, myself, and other men who did 
not like to appear ignorant on the matter. Then 
I would say, with a smile, ' Ah, if only old Jim 
was at his best I could show these fellows what 
a pigeon could really do ! ' * Old Jim ! ' my con- 
federate would cry out. ' What ! you don't mean 
to say that hes alive still — the bird that came 
home from the Himalavas, and that has crossed 
the Atlantic a hundred and fifty times?' ' Oh, 
come, come, that's rather too much ! ' some one 
would now be sure to say. ' I don't believe that ! ' 
' Then, damme, sir, you shall believe it ! ' I would 
answer, ringing the bell in apparent ill-temper, 
and instructing the servant to bring in old Jim ; 
and then, when in a wicker cage that eighteen- 
penny impostor made his appearance, I would 
take him out, and, stroking his feathers, say, ' Yes, 



216 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

there's the bird that has brought home to my 
family a report of my receipts from every pro- 
vincial town in the three kingdoms, who has 
secured me one or two splendid American engage- 
ments, to whose swift wings, indeed, I owe much 
of my success. Poor old Jim ! He's had the pip, 
he's got the roup, and some day he'll moult for 
the last time ; but his work's done, and if it costs 
me a thousand a year he'll now roost in peace 
until the end of his days.' ' Couldn't you,' my 
confederate would now say, ' send Jim just a little 
distance, just to show how extraordinary his 
powers are ? ' And then, after much refusal and 
more persuasion, I would say, ' Well, well, he 
shall go just as far as Blisworth with a message 
to Jones. I dare say, after all, a little night-fly 
like that will freshen the dear old boy up.' Then 
the message to Jones would be written, affixed to 
Jim's wing, and through the window the bird 
would be released. After an hour of billiards 
and general talk, relieved with good cigars and 
anything in the way of refreshment that anybody 
cared to take, a fluttering at the window-panes 
would be heard, and, rushing out, I would return 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 217 

with an exhausted and bedraggled Jim, faithfully 
bearing Jones's reply to my message. Believe it 
or not as you will, not one of the people who 
witnessed this thing ever realized the absurdity 
of sending a pigeon to a place to bring a message 
back from it. They received Jim's double as a 
prodigy, and wended their innocent ways home- 
ward, placidly murmuring, ' Marvellous ! ' 

For the successful carrying out of many of 
Sothern's elaborately planned jokes, it was neces- 
sary that he should have the services of a con- 
federate only second in sharpness to himself, and 
there existed no class of people that he better 
loved to " sell " than those who, when his esca- 
pades had become notorious, desired, without any 
qualification for the task, to act in that difficult 
and delicate capacity. 

On one occasion a somewhat imbecile young 
man, who had a slight acquaintance with him, 
and who loved to boast to his club-friends of his 
close intimacy with the most popular actor of the 
day, said to him how much he would like to take 
a part in one of these jokes. " And so you shall, 
my boy," said Sothern, clapping him on the 



218 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERX. 

shoulder and taking him apart, (t for I may as 
well tell you that from the very first moment 
that I saw you I recognized the fact that you, 
above all living men, understand me and my 
ways. We ought to have been brothers ! " A 
scheme was soon planned. On that very night, 
which, by the way, promised to be a stormy one, 
Sothern was expected at a supper-party, and it 
was agreed that the now thoroughly flattered 
and delighted young man should find his way 
on to the roof of the house, and station himself 
close to the chimney communicating with the 
room in which the guests would be assembled. 
The idea was this. Sothern was to lead the 
conversation up to ventriloquism, and a con- 
federate in the room was at once to say what a 
wonderful master of that peculiar power he was 
known to be. When pressed to do so, Sothern 
was to modestly say that he would see what he 
could do to amuse the company, and, talking up 
the chimney from the room, he was to be answered 
by the somewhat imbecile young man on the roof. 
Being perfectly arranged, everything went well. 
Although he professed to be somewhat out of 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 219 

practice, Sothern had by these means at the very 
commencement of the evening performed such 
wonderful feats of ventriloquism, that when the 
party sat down to supper it was generally agreed 
that in future the redoubtable " Valentine Vox " 
must be thought of little account. Now, however, 
he asked, on account of a tired and unpractised 
voice, to be excused from giving further demon- 
strations of his skill — the fact being that as supper 
was served in another room he could no longer 
carry on a conversation with his ambitious young 
friend on the roof. At this point it had been 
agreed that he should revisit terra Jirma, but it 
is hardly necessary to say that Sothern had made 
arrangements by virtue of which the ladder which 
had aided in the ascent was by this time removed. 
He had, however, reckoned without his host, and 
the last two acts of this entertainment were 
unrehearsed ones. By hook or by crook the 
young man, in despair at finding his ladder gone, 
found his way to the chimney of the supper-room, 
and lustily called down it, " Sothern ! For 
Heaven's sake, come and help me ! I can't get 
down, and it's raining like mad ! " For a 



220 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

moment Sothern was taken aback, and felt that 
the whole trick was about to be exposed, when, to 
his delight and amazement, the company rose as 
one man, and declared that anything half so 
marvellous in the way of ventriloquism had never 
before been attempted or achieved. " Why," 
cried his enthusiastic host, " you said you were 
tired and out of practice ! you declared you could 
do no more, and yet, at the very moment that you 
were apparently talking to me, your voice came 
down the chimney again with a force un- 
paralleled ! " It was not in Sothern's nature to 
deny the flattering impeachment, but, in the midst 
of the congratulations that were now showered 
upon him, his voice came down the chimney in 
such much greater force, and began to be identified 
with so much strong language (the company 
unsuspectingly regarded this as a continued 
manifestation of his " power "), that he suggested 
that he should once more give amusement by 
carrying on a short conversation. This he did, 
and in it artfully contrived to persuade his victim 
that if he would remain quiet for a very short 
time he would come and help him down — which 



S0THERX IN HIGH SPIRITS. 221 

now, for obvious reasons, was the best thing that 
he could do ; but, as luck would have it, before 
the specified short time had elapsed some one in 
the room, imitating Sothern's voice, called up the 
chimney, " Are you still there ? " and this 
proving the last straw upon the rain-drenched 
back of the much-enduring young man, he replied 
— and, unfortunately, he accompanied his incisive 
words with a piece of slate or mortar, or some 
other roof-top missile that he had managed to 
find— "Oh, goto H-l!!!" 

Sothern bolted from the room and from the 
house. I am afraid that he lost his quickly 
acquired fame as a ventriloquist, and I do not 
think that he any longer enjoyed the admiration 
and intimacy of the somewhat imbecile young 
man ; but he told the story with an unction that 
was as infectious as it was delightful. 

The story of a joke that he perpetrated at the 
expense of the beautiful and gifted Adelaide 
Neilson may be told in his own words : " Miss 
Neilson happening to ask me for a little souvenir 
on her departure to Florida, I inquired what she 
would like best. She said she would leave it 



222 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

entirely to me ; any trifle would be valued as a 
parting gift from such an old friend. Where- 
upon I asked her, on the spur of the moment, 
whether she would like a grizzly bear as an 
appropriate playmate and a pleasant ornament to 
a lady's chamber. She replied, in the same spirit, 
' Yes, send him up/ and there the banter ended. 
However, happening half an hour afterwards to 
meet Mr. Moss, the treasurer of Wallack's theatre, 
he mentioned that he was very much annoyed 
by a confounded bear that somebody had sent him 
from California, and which he did not know what 
on earth to do with, ' Where is he ? ' said I. 
' At the back of the stage,' said he, ' with half 
a dozen men sitting on his cage to keep him quiet, 
one of whom has already lost all his trousers and 
a good deal of his flesh through the bars.' ' Good,' 
said I ; ' I will relieve you of him. I know just 
where to place him.' No sooner said than done, 
and in half an hour ' Grizzly ' was landed at the 
Fifth Avenue Hotel by four porters, with a stout 
chain about as big as the cable of a man-of-war, 
and a muzzle like a fire-grate, in the middle of 
Miss Neilson's drawing-room and a numerous 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 223 

company of guests, who had called to bid the fair 
Juliet adieu. Miss Neilson took the jest in good 
part, kept her temper, and tried to keep her bear ; 
but that was an effort beyond her, and Bruin was 
finally presented to the Zoological Gardens in 
Central Park, thus ending the modern adaptation, 
4 with a difference,' of the old story of Beauty and 
the Beast." 

It was with Miss Neilson's husband, Mr. 
Philip Lee, for a victim that he perpetrated that 
which was probably the most extensive (and 
expensive) of all his extravagantly conceived and 
carefully carried out " sells." Unfortunately for 
Mr. Lee, he expressed, on the occasion of his first 
visit to New York, and in Sothern's presence, 
doubts as to the existence of the wild and delight- 
ful American Bohemian life of which he had 
heard. Sothern told him that his letters of intro- 
duction were all to the wrong people, but that if he 
liked he could introduce him to the right set, and 
Mr. Lee having expressed his gratitude, a supper- 
party was arranged. Covers were laid for twelve. 
Sothern presiding, and Mr. Lee, as the guest of the 
evening, sitting on his right hand. Previously, it 

15 



224 EDWARD ASKEW SOT^ERN. 

should be stated, he had been introduced by his 
host and Mr. W. J. Florence (also an inveterate 
joker, and of course in the secret) to the other 
(supposed) notabilities who gathered round the 
sumptuously spread board. For a time all went 
well, but while the soup was being served one 
well-known man was seen to take from under his 
coat a battle-axe, and another celebrity drew from 
beneath his collar a dirk-knife with a blade over a 
foot long, which he gravely unclasped and placed 
beside his plate. Then another took a " six- 
shooter" from his pocket, while his neighbour 
drew a scythe and a policeman's staff from under 
the table, and laid them in the middle of the board. 

" For Heaven's sake," whispered the astonished 
Mr. Lee into Sothern's ear, " what does this 
mean ? " 

" Keep quiet," replied Sothern ; " it is just what 
I most feared. These gentlemen have been drink- 
ing, and they have quarrelled about a friend of 
theirs, a Mr. Weymyss Jobson, quite an eminent 
scholar, and a very estimable gentleman ; but I 
hope, for our sakes, they will not attempt to settle 
their quarrel here. It is dreadful ; but I hope, 



SOTHERN IN' HIGH SPIRITS. 225 

dear boy, that they will go away quietly and have 
no row. It is a fashion they have here to settle 
their disputes at a table, or wherever they meet. 
All we can do now is to await events." 

" But there will be murder here ! " exclaimed 
Mr. Lee. " Can we not give warning to the 
police ? " 

" Impossible, my dear fellow," said Sothern, 
regretfully. " Were you even to be suspected by 
these men of any desire to leave the room, you 
would be shot like a dog, and no satisfaction 
would ever be given your relatives in a court of 
justice. Such is the country." 

" It is an infernal country, then ! " muttered the 
guest. 

For a few moments all went well, when 
suddenly a quarrel broke out at the end of the 
table, and one of the party, springing to his feet, 
fiercely exclaimed — 

" Whoever says that the ' History of the 
French Revolution,' written by my friend, David 
Weymyss Jobson, is not as good a book in every 
respect as that written by Tom Carlyle on the 
same subject, is a liar and a thief; and if there 



226 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

is any fool present who desires to take it up, I 
am his man ! " 

All the guests rose suddenly, and every man 
grasped his weapon ; shots were fired, and the 
room was filled with smoke and uproar ; several 
of the guests closed and struggled with each 
other, and one of the conspirators, thrusting a 
long knife into the amazed victim's now trembling 
hand, said — 

"Defend yourself! This is butchery — sheer 
butchery ! " 

But Sothern sat quietly by, and gave as his 
advice — 

" Keep cool, and dont get shot.'" 

By this time the whole hotel was roused, and 
I fancy that the " joke" went further than even 
Sothern in his wildest mood intended. His 
guests of the evening were a troupe of knock- 
about negro minstrels, who had been instructed 
how to act. 

Among many amusing stories that that clever 
comedian, Mr. John T. Eaymond, had to tell of 
his English travelling experiences with Sothern 
was the following : — They were journeying to- 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 227 

gether from Glasgow to Birmingham, and, having 
agreed to appear to be strangers to each other, 
they entered a first-class non-smoking compart- 
ment, in which sat two typical English gentlemen. 
" Do you object to smoking ? " asked Raymond of 
them. " Certainly not," they politely replied ; and 
then the same question was put to Sothern, who 
angrily answered, "I do, sir — I do most assuredly. 
It is a piece of impertinence on your part to ask 
such a question." "I beg your pardon," replied 
Raymond, modestly. " I am only an American, 
and quite unused to the customs of this country." 
" That's easy enough to see, sir," said the appa- 
rently indignant Sothern. " You are evidently 
either an American or a fool. We don't conduct 
ourselves in that way in England." As if terrified 
half out of his life, Raymond sank back into ci 
corner of the carriage, and the two disgusted 
Englishmen expressed themselves freely and 
audibly concerning Sothern's apparently offensive 
and overbearing conduct. Gazing at them calmly, 
Sothern quietly took from his pocket a cigar, 
lighted it, and puffed away in the most easy 
manner, as indifferent to his surroundings as if he 



228 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

had been alone. This was too much for the 
honest-minded Englishmen. They looked at the 
small and inoffensive Raymond — they looked at 
the well-knit, aggressive Sothern, and they " went 
for him." At first they talked "at" him, then 
they talked to him ; they tried to make him put 
his cigar out, explain, apologize ; they declared 
they would call the guard, they threatened all 
kinds of things ; but Sothern sat imperturbable and 
silent as the sphynx, calmly smoking his cigar, 
and filling the compartment with smoke. In the 
midst of this scene the train stopped at a station ; 
and then Sothern, throwing a contemptuous look 
on the Englishmen, and taking Raymond by the 
arm, said, " Come, John, we'll change carriages 
here. We'll leave these ill-mannered fellows to 
themselves ! " 

Once, taking a midnight railway journey after 
a late and exhausting performance, he made efforts 
to secure a compartment to himself ; but at the last 
moment, just as the train was starting, another 
traveller, somewhat rudely pushed by the porter 
in attendance, opened the door, and claimed and 
asserted his right of admission. Sothern said 



SOTHERN" IN HIGH SPIRITS. 229 

nothing, but when the train had started he 
opened his travelling-bag, and, looking malevo- 
lently at his fellow-passenger, commenced strop- 
ping his razors. After the first stopping-station 
had been passed he had that compartment to 
himself. 

The following story has been told (with varia- 
tions) by Mr. Toole, but it is so characteristic of 
Sothern's peculiar vein of humour that it must 
needs be repeated here. With Mrs. John Wood 
he entered an ironmonger's shop, and, advancing 
to the counter, said, " Have you the second edition 
of Macaulay's 'History of England'?" The shop 
assistant explained the nature of the business, and 
suggested the name of a neighbouring bookseller. 
" Well, it don't matter whether it is bound in calf 
or not," said Sothern. " But, sir, this is not a 
bookseller's," was the reply. " It doesn't matter 
how you wrap it up," said Sothern ; "a piece 
of brown paper will do — the sort of thing that 
you would select for your own mother." " Sir," 
shouted the man, " we don't keep books ; this is 
an ironmonger's shop." "Yes," said Sothern, 
"I see the binding differs, but as long as the 



230 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

proper fly-leaf is in, I'm not very particular." 
" Sir," fairly shrieked the bewildered man, " can't 
you see you have made a mistake and come into 
the wrong shop?" "Certainly," said Sothern; 
" I'm in no hurry, and I'll wait w r hile you reach 
it down." Believing that his strange customer- 
was either deaf or mad, the man went off to the 
back part of the premises, and returned with the 
proprietor of the establishment. " What is it 
that you require, sir ? " asked that individual of 
Sothern, in a bland yet determined voice. " I 
want," was the prompt and lucid reply, " a small, 
ordinary file, about six inches in length." " Cer- 
tainly, sir," said the ironmonger, producing the 
article, and casting a look of supreme disgust 
upon his unfortunate assistant. Mrs. John Wood, 
who, when they entered the shop, had no idea 
what her madcap companion was going to do, 
very nearly spoiled the joke by her ill-restrained 
but not inexcusable laughter. 

His pranks with tradespeople were, indeed, 
innumerable. Amongst other experiences in this 
connection, I have been with him when he walked 
into a post-office, and bewildered the person behind 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 231 

the counter by asking for "some nice fresh stamps, 
suitable for an invalid." And then, after he had 
inspected sheets of all the different values, de- 
claring that this was a case in which expense 
need not be considered, rejecting them all because 
he " really feared they were not quite fresh 
enough." 

At a little social club in Glasgow, Sothern 
was in the habit of sometimes meeting at after- 
theatre suppers a college Professor (in his own 
words "a singularly clever and jolly fellow"), 
who had a way of abruptly leaving the room 
without taking the trouble to say good-bye to 
any one who might be present. On one occasion, 
when both the actor and the Professor were 
present, the former happened to sit next to an 
outspoken Major (there is no need to mention 
names), who, in the course of conversation, re- 
marked, " I went to-night to see the world-famed 

conjurer, Professor . What a pity it is that 

he should appear before the public in such a 
shameful condition ! " " Why, what was the 
matter?" asked Sothern. "He was drunk, sir," 
replied the Major — "disgracefully drunk." Know- 



232 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERX. 

ing that the Major and the Professor did not 
know each other, seeing his chance, and yielding 
to temptation, Sothern quietly nudged his neigh- 
bour, at the same time saying, in an impressive 
aside, " Hush ! " The Major, feeling that he had 
committed himself, looked up quickly, and Sothern 
said, "My dear sir, you have made a mistake. 
You surely don't mean that he was drunk ?" 
"No, no," replied the Major in a disconcerted 
sort of way, "not exactly drunk, but — but — but 
—well — confused, you understand. I've seen a 
good many of the English conjurers, and what 
I meant to imply was, that I don't consider he 
comes up to their average." At this juncture, 
as luck would have it, the Professor rose from 
the table and left the room, which those who 
knew him recognized as his quiet way of taking 
his departure without breaking up a social party ; 
but when he w r as fairly gone, Sothern turned to 
the Major and said, " I am afraid this is a very 
awkward business ! I wish with all my soul that 
you hadn't said it ! " " What is it ? What did 
I say?" was the not unnatural reply. "Why," 
said Sothern, " didn't you see the indignant way 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 233 

in which that man got up and left the room? 
That's the son-in-law of the conjurer — married 
his daughter only two days ago, and of course 
he naturally feels indignant at the very pointed 
remark that he heard you make." " D — n it," 
said the Major, " why didn't you tell me? You 
nudged me, and you confused me." " Nonsense," 
said Sothern, seriously ; "I looked at you, and 
winked at you, feeling that you were an intelli- 
gent fellow and would take a hint ; but, as the 
thing is done, my advice to you is to write a 
manly, straightforward letter, explaining the affair 
in a semi-apologetic way, and saying, as an easy 
means of getting out of it, that, having had a 
remarkably jolly simper, you were perhaps more 
or less under the influence of wine." Falling 
into the trap, the regretful Major wrote a note 
to Sothern's dictation, and Sothern undertook to 
send it to the Professor. As a matter of course, 
he did not send it, but the next day wrote a letter, 
and had it copied and signed in the Professor's 
name, which was one of the most grossly in- 
sulting in its character that one could conceive. 
It read something like this, " Sir, simply because 



234 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

you happen to be a cavalry officer, and I a quiet 
university Professor, you think you can with 
impunity insult me by assailing the purity of 
my honoured father-in-law. As you yourself 
confess in your note that you are only a drunken 
cad" — and so forth, and so forth. The next 
morning the Major called on Sothern and showed 
him this letter. " He calls me a drunken cad ! " 
he said excitedly ; " and I mean to kick him." 
Sothern soothed him as well as he could, and, 
directly he was gone, wrote a note to the conjurer 
in the name of the Major, to the effect that he 
had received a letter from his son-in-law saying 
that he would horsewhip him at the first oppor- 
tunity. That brought another communication 
which still further complicated matters; but as 
Sothern wrote all the missives himself, he held 
the trump cards in his own hand. These letters 
went backwards and forwards for several days, 
and finally Sothern sent one from the Professor 
challenging the Major, at the same time causing 
a number of telegrams to be transmitted to him 
from different parts of Scotland from men with 
whom he knew he was intimate, expressive of 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 235 

their astonishment that a gentleman so well 
known for his distinguished bravery should have 
been guilty of conduct so utterly unbecoming his 
position. Now, this threw the unfortunate Major 
into a state of great excitement and perplexity. 
He was a man of warm temperament and high 
courage, who would have by no means objected 
to " meet his man," but who respected his country's 
laws, and who, as an officer, had his own reasons 
for strictly regarding them. Sothern at this 
crisis started for London, leaving behind him 
a batch of letters and telegrams of the most 
slighting and insulting description, which were 
delivered to the Major on the following day. 
Kendered desperate by these, he followed Sothern 
to town, sending him a telegram in advance, 
begging for an appointment, and saying that he 
should act under his advice. Sothern at once 
arranged to have the Glasgow Professor to dine 
with him on the very day on which he asked the 
Major to call, and when the latter walked into 
the room he was completely staggered to find 
the former advance and shake him cordially by 
the hand. Of course the gallant Major could not 



236 EDWAKD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

resist what he now regarded as an evidence of 
goodwill, and commenced to make explanations, 
to which the innocent Professor listened in as- 
tonishment, declaring his entire ignorance of the 
whole affair. Not having an idea what it was 
all about, he jumped to the conclusion that the 
Major was drunk, and as Sothern kept making 
signs to him, he treated him accordingly. At 
last the situation became so ludicrous that Sothern 
felt bound to tell the whole story, and — well, let 
us hope that he was forgiven. 

There is a story of a joke that he played in 
conjunction with another actor on a fastidious 
hotel guest, who happened to occupy a room ad- 
joining theirs. He was an elderly gentleman, 
and he had been complaining of the noise the 
two actors made when they came home from the 
theatre, and so it was determined that he should 
have a " good time." One night, a little past 
twelve o'clock, the two actors sat down at the 
table in their room. On it they placed a large 
number of plates and glasses, and, having made 
sure that their irritable neighbour was in his 
room, they proceeded to produce in most realistic 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 237 

style the noise and jollification of a large supper- 
party. First, Sothern would get up and make 
a speech, at the same time stamping his feet and 
clapping his hands to personate several other 
people, while his confederate would rattle the 
dishes, jingle the glasses, and shout " Hear ! 
hear ! " Occasionally, to heighten the illusion, 
Sothern would go to the door and apparently bid 
one of the party good night, tramp noisily down 
the room, and inquire of a score of imaginary per- 
sons whether they had all they wanted, and what 
wines they liked best. In this way some dozens 
of supposititious guests departed from the room, 
while the unhappy old man next door, thoroughly 
tired out and disgusted at his vain efforts to go 
to sleep, paced the floor in despair. Finally, 
when, at about sunrise, the actors began to get 
tired, they bade their last guest a noisy farewell 
and retired. In the morning the old man gave 
up his room and left the hotel in high dudgeon. 
Thereafter the two actors came in as late and 
made as much noise as they liked. 

To Mr. Toole I am indebted for the anecdote 
of Florence getting home late one night and 



238 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

finding upon his dining-room table a very tender 
note in a lady's handwriting. The signature was 
unknown to him, and, after carefully considering 
the epistle, he came to the conclusion that his 
friend Sothern was the writer of it. Florence 
immediately wrote, and despatched by a mes- 
senger, a furious letter to Sothern, from whose 
persecution, as he regarded it, in another matter, 
he was at the moment keenly suffering. 6i Your 
conduct," he wrote, " is neither that of an actor 
nor a gentleman." In the morning he regretted 
the hasty letter that he had written, and which 
must by this time have been delivered and re- 
ceived. A few weeks afterwards he met Sothern 
in the street. 

" How d'you do, Florence ? " said Sothern. 
u You're quite a stranger." 

" That's how I have been feeling," said 
Florence. " Ever since I wrote that letter to 
you I concluded it would put an end to our 
friendship." 

" That letter — what letter ? Oh yes, I re- 
member ; something about neither an actor nor 
a gentleman ? But there was no name at the top 



SOTHERN m HIGH SPIRITS. 239 

or at the bottom ; I remember now ; so, guessing 
it was intended for Boucicault, I redirected it and 
sent it on ! " 

When playing in America, under the manage- 
ment of Mr. Abbey, the two had a wager together, 
the stakes being two silk hats. Sothern was the 
winner, and Mr. Abbey wrote an order to the 
principal hatter in New York, asking that they 
should be sent to him at the box-office of 
the theatre. Writing this order quickly, he had 
left a blank space before the figure two, and 
when his back was turned, Sothern quickly 
inserted in front of it a six. The order was 
duly posted, and in course of time, perplexed as 
the hatter must have been at this extraordinary 
requirement on the part of Mr. Abbey, the 
sixty-two hats were delivered, together with a 
bill, and a letter expressing his satisfaction at 
being favoured with such a large order. Mr. 
Abbey happened to be out when the hats 
arrived, and his amazement on his return at 
finding the box-office literally filled with the 
sixty-two hat-boxes was great. The man who 
delivered the hats also brought Mr. Abbey's 

16 



240 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

order, which was written in pencil ; and Sothern, 
who was on the look-out, had immediately taken 
the letter from him and quietly rubbed out his 
own six, so that the astonished and indignant Mr. 
Abbey, when he asked to see the order, read it, 
just as he had written it, for two hats. He 
showed it to Sothern, saying, " What the devil 

does Mr. mean by sending me sixty-two 

hats, when my order was for two ? " 

" Poor fellow ! " said Sothern, shaking his 
head ; " I really thought he would leave off, but 
he's evidently at it again." 

" At what ? " asked Mr. Abbey. 

" Oh, it only shows what drink will do if a 
man persists in it," was the reply. " You had 
better send the hats back with some sound advice 
concerning his too-well-known habits, and pay 
the bill." 

This advice was followed, and an angry corre- 
spondence between the hatter and Mr. Abbey had 
reached an acute stage before the perpetrator of 
the joke, having thoroughly enjoyed himself, 
stepped in and cleared the matter up. 

Mr. Florence has told some wonderful stories 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 241 

of the ' ' sells " that Sothern prepared for his 
delectation, generously enough premising the 
narration of them by saying, " For a good 
square, original, practical joke, no man that I ever 
heard of can touch Ned Sothern.; his inventive 
powers are marvellous." 

" He once," this good-natured and even 
appreciative victim went on to say, " inserted an 
advertisement in the New York Herald, the 
substance of which was that I wanted ten dogs, 
two each Newfoundland, black-and-tan, spitz, 
setters, and poodles, and that dog dealers might 
apply at seven o'clock in the morning until three 
in the afternoon, for three days, at my residence. 
The next morning by eight o'clock the street in 
front of my house was crowded with men and 
dogs, fighting their way to my door. Aroused 
by the awful noise, I got out of my bed, went 
to the window, and as I drew back the curtain 
and exposed my head and shoulders, every fellow 
in that motley crowd held up his dog and yelled, 
' Here he is, Mr. Florence ; this is the one you 
want ! ' I don't know what else they said, for 
the howling and barking of the dogs and the 



242 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

laughter of the crowd drowned all other sounds. 
I was at a loss to account for this strange sight ; 
but Mrs. Florence, coming to the window, and 
realizing the situation, said, ' I see what it is ; it 
cannot be anything but one of Ned Sothern's 
jokes. Look — look ! There he is himself ! ' And 
sure enough there he was, looking at a beautiful 
Skye-terrier which he ultimately purchased. He 
turned to my window, and, with that characteristic 
way he had of adjusting his eye-glasses, he put 
them on and looked straight at me as if he had 
never seen me, and then innocently asked a boy, 
who was holding an ugly cur, ' Who lives in 
this house ? What queer person is that who is 
shaking his fist at us ? ' f Why, Florence, the 
actor, lives there, and he advertised for dogs, and 
that's what's the matter/ said the urchin. ' Going 
into the dog business, I suppose ? ' said Sothern, 
again glancing dreamily at the windows and 
walking leisurely away. 

" At another time he sent three or four 
undertakers to my house in the middle of the 
night. The last trick he played upon me was 
very good. I had invited a number of fellows to 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 243 

dine with me, and we were expecting a good 
time. When we were pretty well through the 
dessert, one of the gentlemen went outside into 
the hall, and in a few minutes returned, saying 
that there was an old man at the door who wished 
to see Mr. Florence, and that he would not go 
away until I came to him. After a little while 
I went out, and found the antediluvian on the 
step outside. He seemed to be very infirm and 
quite lame. I invited him inside, and he told me 
that he was about to return to the old country, — 
that he had lost all his family in America, and 
was going home to the land of his fathers to die. 
He had a few things left from the general wreck 
of his household which he wished to sell, and 
thereupon he took some mantel ornaments and 
other articles of virtu from his pockets, saying 
they were the last things he had saved, and if 
I could spare him three hundred dollars for them 
he could buy a steerage ticket that would carry 
him home. I saw that the articles were valuable, 
told him that I would keep them, and handed 
him three hundred dollars. Thinking I had done 
a pretty good thing, I returned to the dining-room 



244 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

and gave orders to a servant to let the beggar 
out. The servant returned, saying that the old 
fellow had already gone; and so, indeed, he had. 
Some of the company then suggested that he 
might have been a fraud, and suggested that I 
should 'just look round and see if he had not 
taken a few things.' It then bethought me that 
the articles he produced looked like some of my 
own. I rushed into the parlour to find that the 
old thief had taken my own things. The alarm 
was given and the police sent for. 

" In a few moments two officers appeared and 
began a search. One of the servants then reported 
that he had seen the old man going upstairs. 
The officers rushed up, and after a look through 
the rooms on the two upper stories discovered 
him looking over some photographs. The officers, 
of course, seized him. He resisted, and gave it to 
them pretty roughly with his tongue. 

" ' Bring the old ruffian down/ I cried ; ' bring 
him into the dining-room.' 

" Until then I had not thoroughly scanned the 
aged villain's countenance. Imagine my amaze- 
ment when I looked into that eye which no power 



SOTHERN IN HICxH SPIRITS. 245 

on earth could disguise or change, to find that the 
old man I had hold of was Sothern himself! It 
was a dead sell on us all." 

Sothern, who had actually been one of Mr. 
Florence's guests at dinner, had, it appeared, 
come provided with a wig, beard, slippers, a long 
coat, and a villainous old hat, and, managing to 
slip out of the room, had, in a few moments, 
transformed himself into the disreputable old 
beggar-man. 

Mr. Stephen Fiske has also related some curious 
experiences that befell him when in the company 
of this incorrigible practical joker. He was walk- 
ing with Sothern down Regent Street one day, 
when he said, " You go ahead a little, Fiske, and 
I'll go back, but we will both take the Atlas 
omnibus." "I" (says Mr, Fiske) "followed his 
instructions, and, entering the omnibus, found 
Sothern sitting in the diagonally opposite corner. 
I naturally looked at him with some curiosity to 
know why he had asked me to go on ahead. 
Perceiving this, he assumed a very fierce and 
belligerent expression, and exclaimed, ' Are you 
staring at me, sir ? ' The omnibus was filled with 



246 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN". 

several elderly ladies, two quiet gentlemen who 
looked like clergymen, and a farmer from the 
country. I took the cue at once, and replied, 
* No ; if I wanted to stare at anybody, I would 
stare at a better-looking man than yourself.' At 
this Sothern's indignation apparently became 
uncontrollable, and it required all the force of 
the clergymen, seconded by the farmer, to keep 
him in his seat, and prevent hirn from throwing 
himself upon me. Finally, he insisted upon stop- 
ping the ' bus,' and invited me to step outside, 
and either apologize then and there for the insult 
or fight him on the spot. I pretended to prefer 
to do the latter, but said I would remain in the 
omnibus ; whereupon Sothern took off his over- 
coat, and handed it to the nearest old lady to hold 
for him while he chastised me for my imperti- 
nence. In the course of the desultory remarks 
in which we then indulged, he said that he would 
allow nobody except his friend John Robinson, 
of Philadelphia, to speak to him in that way and 
live ; whereupon I immediately informed him that 
my name was Robinson, Christian name John, 
and that I had just arrived from America, but 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 247 

that I hadn't the pleasure of his acquaintance, 
nor did I particularly desire it. In an instant 
Sothern's manner completely changed, and, climb- 
ing over the old ladies, the clergymen, and the 
farmer, to my corner of the omnibus, he endea- 
voured to embrace me like a long-lost friend. He 
declared that he had never been more delighted 
in his life, stopped the omnibus, and proposed 
that we should get out together, which we there- 
upon proceeded to do. The comedy we had 
enacted, and the astonishment depicted on the 
faces of the inmates of the vehicle, exceeded 
anything I ever saw on the stage, and afforded 
food for laughter for many days." 

Mr. Fiske has also recorded another episode, 
which he described as " A Spiritual Joke." " I 
remember," he said, " a curious experiment which 
Sothern made in New York, while a well-known 
actress was playing at the Winter Garden. 
Sothern was engaged in a discussion on spirit- 
ualism with a gentleman in the corridor or lobby, 
and said, ' Now let me give you an instance of 
the power of a medium. You observe that Miss 
is on the stage, and of course she can't hear 



248 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

what I say at this instant. But if you will watch 
her while I count " one, two, three," you will 
notice that she will tremble, turn pale, and lean 
against the actor with whom she is playing.' 
As Sothern did so, he pulled out his handkerchief, 
rubbed it against the window looking into the 
audience, and precisely what he had predicted 
occurred. It was so naturally done that even I 
was deceived until after the performance, when 
the actress, sending for me, said, * Mr. Fiske, what 
was Mr. Sothern's object in asking me, as a special 

favour, to lean against H when he rubbed 

his handkerchief against the glass ? ' I did not 
myself find out until, during a subsequent conver- 
sation at supper, he explained the joke. It illus- 
trates one of his methods. He had told her what 
to do." 

Mr. Fiske's omnibus story reminds me how 
fond Sothern at all times was of making public 
conveyances the targets for his wayward humour. 
On one occasion, I remember, he called a hansom 
that was " crawling " along the Strand, got into 
it, and began earnestly to read a newspaper. 
" Where to, sir ? " asked the driver, having closed 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 249 

the doors, and touching his hat ; but this question 
had to be repeated some half-dozen times before 
Sothern, looking up dreamily from his paper, took 
any notice of it. 

" Where to ? " he then said somewhat angrily. 
" Why, aren't we there yet ? Where have you 
been driving me to, then ? " 

Cabman. We haven't been driving at all 

Sothern (interrupting him). We haven't been driving ! 
Of course we haven't been driving ! Do you think that 
when I engaged this cab I meant to come and share your 
seat, and hold one of the reins ? 

Cabman (sulkily). Well, then, I haven't been driving — 
there. 

Sothern. That's just where you are in the wrong. You 
ought to have been driving there. What else did I take this 
cab for ? 

Cabman. But you didn't tell me where you wanted to go 
to. 

Sothern. Of course I didn't. If I had known where I 
wanted to go to, naturally I should have walked there. I leave 
all that to you. 

Cabman. Come now, governor, tell me where I am to 
drive to. 

Sothern (looking at him earnestly). Do you mean to tell 
me that you really don't know ? 

Cabman (losing his temper). How should I know ? 

Sothern. Why, I was always given to understand that 
you fellows knew London thoroughly well. 

Cabman (on his dignity). So I do know London well. 
No man better. 



250 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN". 

Sothern. I should have thought, then, that Leicester 
Square 

Cabman. Leicester Square ! You never said that before. 

Sothern. Of course I didn't. Well, now, perhaps, you 
know where to go to. 

(Cabman indignantly mounts his box and drives off. 
Sothern again immerses himself in his newspaper. Leicester 
Square is, of course, soon reached,) 

Cabman (with his mouth at the roof -trap) . Which number, 
sir? 

Sothern. Don't bother me ; I'm busy. 

Cabman. Well, but I only wanted to know which number. 

Sothern. That doesn't sound a great deal either, does it ? 
Get down, my good fellow, and we'll talk about it. We shall 
never come to an understanding while you're up there, and 
I'm down here. 

Cabman (at the door). Which number, sir ? 

Sothern. Upon my soul, I don't know. What place is 
this ? 

Cabman (surlily). Leicester Square. 

Sothern. Indeed ? Why did we come here ? 

Cabman. Because you said you wanted to come here. 

Sothern. No, no ; pardon me. I remember now. You 
suggested Leicester Square, and I, thinking you seemed to 
be a man of taste, jumped at it. I was right. It's a pretty 
place. I like it. I'll take you by the hour, the day, the week, 
the month, anything you like ; only drive quietly round and 
round it, so that I can see it thoroughly and at my leisure. 

(The Cabman, thinking that he is dealing with a lunatic, 
and possibly a dangerous one, remounts his box, and drives 
" round and round" the square. Sothern again buries himself 
in his newspaper. After a lapse of some three-quarters of an 
hour the cabman once more stops, gets down, and stands at the 
door, which he has opened.) 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 251 

Cabman. Look here, governor, for mercy's sake, get out, 
and, if you like, blow the fare ! We've been round this 'ere 
square the dickens only knows how many times, and, however 
you may feel, me and the old y orse is both blind dizzy ! 

Sottiern is himself responsible for the following 
anecdote, and it may as well be told in his own 
words. " Not long ago, Mr. Toole and myself 
were breakfasting with a party of friends at an 
inn in Greenwich. No sooner had the waiter left 
the room for an instant than I proposed that we 
should remove the plate from the cloth, and get 
under the table. This we did without loss of 
time, taking every article of silver-ware from the 
table, down to the spoons, and throwing open the 
window. After a while the door was opened and 
the waiter reappeared. 

" ' Hallo ! ' he cried, seeing the company gone, 
also the silver, and the window wide open, ' here's 
a rum go ! I'm blest if they aren't run away with 
the silver ! Here, Dick (to a waiter who was 
passing), the gentlemen 'as run away with the 
silver ! Help me find the guv'nor ! ' With that 
he made a hasty exit, whereupon the party re- 
sumed their places, after shutting down the 



252 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

window and replacing the dishes, the knives, 
the forks, and the spoons. When the ' guv'nor ' 
appeared, breathless and cursing, not loud, but 
deep, he found a party of gentlemen in the full 
possession of his silver-ware, quietly discussing 
the fish. His ejaculation of rage changed to 
astonishment and relief. 

" ' Eh, what ? ' said he, ' everything secure ? 
Why, James, you confounded rascal, what do you 
mean ? ' 

" c So help me, guv'nor ' commenced the 

bewildered waiter. 

" * You're drunk, you idiot ! ' exclaimed the 
irate landlord, and then, bowing to the company, 
' Gentlemen, I beg your pardon. I will with- 
draw.' ' 

Sothern also told the following story. " One 
morning at breakfast in the public-room of 
the Continental Hotel, Philadelphia, I observed 
an old gentleman who was obviously very 
much annoyed at the delay of the waiter in 
bringing his breakfast. He was continually 
looking at his watch and apparently muttering 
oaths of abdominal origin. For some time I paid 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 253 

little attention to him, but at last, becoming either 
interested or annoyed with him, I asked the head- 
waiter who he was. He told me he was General 
So-and-so, an irascible old bachelor, and one of 
the regular boarders of the house. While waiting 
for my own breakfast I had emptied my pockets 
of the letters which I had to acknowledge that 
morning, and among them found what we call 
a ' property letter,' that had accidentally found 
its way among my own papers. A property 
letter, you know, means a letter used on the 
stage, and this one read as follows : — 

" * Young man, I know thy secret — thou lovest 
above thy station : if thou hast wit, courage, and 
discretion, I can secure to thee the realization of thy 
most sanguine hopes, etc., etc' 

"It is the letter which Claude Melnotte reads 
in 4 The Lady of Lyons.' It struck me on the 
instant that I would enclose it in an envelope, 
send it to the old gentleman, and watch the 
effect ; so, calling one of the waiters — a coloured 
man — I told him to go outside in the hall, remain 
for five minutes, and then return and deliver the 
letter, saying that the writer would call for a 



254 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

reply during the day. I also instructed the waiter, 
after giving this reply, to retire quickly, and not 
be seen again in the hotel until the next day, and 
that I would make it all right with his employer. 

" Agreeably to my orders, in a few minutes 
the servant walked up to the General and put 
the letter in his hands. The old gentleman ad- 
justed his spectacles, tore open the envelope, and 
in an amazed tone commenced to read half aloud, 
' Young man, I know thy secret,' and so on. He 
read it over two or three times, and* I never saw 
anybody more bewildered. At last he called for 
the head-waiter and demanded to see the servant 
who had delivered the letter ; of course he was 
not to be found. The longer he pondered, the 
more he seemed inclined to fly into a passion, and 
when his breakfast came the storm burst. ' D — n 
the breakfast ! ' he exclaimed, almost kicking over 
the table. ' I want to see the lunatic who calls 
me a " young man," and says he knows my secret, 
and can secure the realization of my fondest 
hopes. I haven't got any secret, and my fondest 
hope is to kick the idiot who sent me this insane 
note ! ' 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 255 

" During this time two or three ladies had 
joined me at the breakfast-table, and, noticing 
the extraordinary excitement of the General, 
asked me if I knew who he was. I told them 
to keep very quiet, and not to attract his atten- 
tion ; that he was a fratricide, and an escaped 
lunatic, whose keepers were outside behind the 
doors waiting for him, and that the letter was 
only a decoy to enable them to secure him with- 
out any unnecessary violence. This thoroughly 
alarmed them, and they hurriedly left the table, 
retreating through the door at the other end 
of the room. 

" At this moment the second head-waiter, 
who had noticed the agitation of the ladies, 
walked up to me, and asked if they were not 
satisfied with the breakfast. 

" ' Oh yes,' I replied, ' I presume so ; but the 
youngest lady is a dangerous maniac at times, 
and the instant she saw her father, General So- 
and-so, disturbed in his mind by the letter she 
had written, I whispered to her friend to take 
her out of the room.' 

" In a few moments, having finished my break- 

17 



256 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN\ 

fast, I took my own departure. On reaching the 
office of the hotel, I inquired of one of the 
principal clerks whether his head-waiter was 
quite sound in his mind. He asked me my 
reason for making the inquiry. I said that I 
didn't want to get my name mixed up in the 
matter, but it struck me that the one weak point 
of his intellect was his apparently intense dislike 
to the General, and I observed, ' If I were you 
I should just test it by going up to him sud- 
denly, and saying, " Don't you think you will 
get yourself into trouble about that letter of the 
General's ? " ' 

" Taking my advice, the clerk walked up 
to the head-waiter and abruptly put this question 
to him. Of course the waiter got very much 
confused, and stammered in endeavouring to 
make an explanation ; whereupon I, who was 
behind him, intimated by signs to the clerk that 
he had better get out of the way, as the fellow had 
a knife about him and might become very violent. 

" In the meantime I saw the General approach 
the office to make inquiries, and in a minute or 
two there was a tremendous hum of conversation. 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 257 

Half a dozen men were talking loudly and ex- 
citedly together, among whom were the clerk 
and the two head-waiters. I hastily paid my 
bill, seized my travelling-bag, jumped into a con- 
veyance at the door, and was driven away. I 
never learned what was the result, because I 
never dared to inquire." 

I suppose if anything could be called fair 
game for these wild exploits, it would be the self- 
sufficient and absolutely irrepressible amateur 
actor who believes himself to be an Irving, 
Kendal, and Toole rolled into one. That Sothern 
thought him so will be seen by the following 
anecdote. 

While taking a short holiday at a sea- 
side town he was introduced to a gentleman 
who, having played a few parts in the Theatre 
Royal Back Drawing-Room, believed himself to 
be a histrionic genius. With time on his hands, 
this was just the sort of man that Sothern 
wanted, and at his expense he at once began 
to amuse himself. 

" My dear fellow," he said to him, after an 
acquaintance of about twenty-four hours, " there 



258 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

is no need to tell me that you are a born actor. 
I can see it in your eyes and bearing, hear ii 
in your voice, read it in your every action. Why, 
in the name of goodness, do you waste your time 
here, when in London you would find fame and 
fortune ? It is really the saddest case of i Born 
to Blush Unseen ' that I have ever known. "Why 
on earth don't you give yourself a chance ? " 

" Well, yes ; but how ? " was the answer. 

" Why, confound it all, look here," replied 
Sothern. " Though it's dead against my own 
interest to say it, if I were you I would engage 
the theatre in this place, send invitations to all 
the London managers, and appear as Othello. 
After that you would simply have to name your 
own terms." 

Only too readily the poor conceited amateur 
actor fell into the trap. The theatre was taken, 
a company (of some sort) recruited, and, under 
the supervision of Sothern, Shakespeare's tragedy 
was (in a fashion) rehearsed. On the evening of 
the production Sothern called his victim on one 
side and said to him — 

" You are admirable ; I don't know when I 



SOTHERN IX HIGH SPIRITS. 259 

watched rehearsals with greater interest ; I don't 
know when I have learnt more lessons than I 
have while noting your marvellous conception of 
Othello. But you have one fault, which I, as an 
old actor, may be pardoned for pointing out to 
you. You don't speak up enough." 

" Don't speak up enough ! " said the amateur, 
who had been exercising what he called " his 
organ " in a manner that was, to say the least of 
it, remarkable. " Why, all the others declare that 
I am much too loud ! " 

" Precisely," was the reply ; " and that only 
just proves what I am saying. Can't you see, my 
good fellow, that they recognize in you a genius, 
and that they would like you to make a failure ? 
Now, I, who have your real interest at heart, and 
mean you to succeed, tell you the truth. To- 
night I will sit in a box, close to the stage. Keep 
your eye on me, and when I show my handker- 
chief raise your voice to its very utmost capacity." 

The ambitious one thanked his kind patron, 
and promised to attend to his instructions. It 
is easy to see what followed. Led on by the 
ever-displayed handkerchief, Othello roared like 



260 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

a very bull, to the dismay of those who were 
playing with him, and to the derision of the 
audience. In the course of the evening he sent 
for Sothern and said — 

" I'm sure I must be loud enough ; I'm shout- 
ing myself faint ; the audience laughs at me. 
Why do you continue to show that confounded 
handkerchief ? " 

Sothern looked at him with a sad smile, and 
said — 

" My dear boy, this is where the old actor 
comes in. You think you are shouting, but, as 
a matter of fact, you are inaudible. Experience 
alone can teach the true management of the voice. 
The laughs of which you complain mean that 
you cannot be heard. The London critics who, 
at my request, have specially come down to see 
you, have just been saying to me, ' You're right 
about the man ; he's got a magnificent stage 
presence ; his poses are unequalled ; he's grasped 
the part better than any one since Kemble died ; 
but, damme, why don't he speak up ? ' If you 
don't do so in the next act I'm afraid you're 
settled." 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 261 

After the next act the poor mistaken man, 
who, of course, had acted execrably, was settled. 
With protruded eyeballs, distended veins, and 
perspiration playing havoc with his blackened 
face, he bellowed (to the tune of the fluttering 
handkerchief) until voice and strength forsook 
him, and, in whispered tones, he told his mentor 
that " he could not go on any longer." " I was 
afraid of it," said Sothern ; " what a pity ! You 
have all the attributes of a great actor except 
voice power. Well, it was worth trying. If 
you could have made yourself heard you would 
have snuffed us all out. As it is, there is nothing 
to do but grin and bear it." 

Writing of the shouting Othello reminds me 
of an odd and harmless trick that Sothern was 
fond of trying at a dinner-party. Commencing 
with a confederate across the table, he would 
converse in loud and yet louder tones, and this, 
being continued, became so infectious that at last, 
to his infinite delight, all present would be shout- 
ing, the one to the other, at the very pitch of 
their voices. 

Mr. Toole, ever a great friend of Sothern's, 



262 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

and a participator in many of his jokes, once 
agreed with another friend to meet him at one 
of those old inns in the city where steaks are 
cooked to the point of perfection. Sothern hap- 
pening to be first at the meeting-place — a quiet 
coffee-room in an old-fashioned hostelry — was 
attracted by the appearance of the only diner, a 
quaint and sedate-looking elderly gentleman, who, 
with the air of one well accustomed to the place, 
was quietly enjoying one of the famous steaks 
to the accompaniment of a pint of choice port. 

Immediately an idea came into his head, and, 
acting upon it, in his usually impulsive manner, 
he walked quickly up to the old gentleman and 
gave him such a hearty slap on the back that, half 
falling across the table, he sent the succulent steak 
flying from its dish, and upset the wine-bottle. 
" How are you, old boy ? " said Sothern, extending 
his hand, and in apparent delight. " I haven't 
seen you for years. This is unexpected! How 
are they all at home ? " " Sir," ejaculated the 
indignant and choking old gentleman, " what do 
you mean by taking this liberty ? Who are you ? 
I " Instantly Sothern's mobile face under- 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 263 

went a change. " My dear sir," he said, in the 
most apologetic of tones, " I fear I have made a 
most unpardonable mistake. I thought you were 
one of the most intimate of my friends, and now I 
find that I have accosted, nay, assaulted a stranger. 
I really, my dear sir, don't know what to say to 
you." Sothern's earnest manner quickly and 
completely mollified the old gentleman, who, 
rejecting an offer that the spilt wine should be 
replaced, cheerfully ordered a second pint bottle, 
said it was " all a mistake," and resumed his 
rudely interrupted meal. Sothern left the coffee- 
room, strolled to the hotel door, and there 
encountered the man who was to meet Toole and 
himself. " I am afraid that I am late," said the 
new-comer. " A little," said Sothern ; " but it 
doesn't matter. Toole hasn't come yet. By the 
way, should you like to take a part in one of those 
little jokes of mine about which people talk so 
much ? " This was generally an irresistible 
temptation, and his friend, falling into the trap, 
said, " By all means." " To begin with, then," 
said Sothern, " go into the coffee-room. There 
you will find an old gentleman busy with his 



264 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

dinner. Bang him across the back as if you had 
known him for years, calling out, ' Well, old cock, 
how are you ? ' and then make profuse apologies, 
saying that you have made a mistake." Not 
seeing much difficulty or danger in this, the friend 
departed on his errand, and by-and-by returned. 
" Well," asked Sothern, with the familiar twinkle 
in his marvellous eye, "how did he take it?" 
" Not at all well," was the reply. " He's a surly 
old fellow, and made a tremendous fuss. I'd no 
idea a man could so lose his temper over what 
might, after all, have been an excusable mistake. 
However, he's all right now. I broke his half- 
bottle of wine, but he let me pay for another, and 
he's now at work again." At this moment Toole 
arrived, full of apologies at keeping the others 
waiting. " It doesn't matter," said Sothern, 
" especially if you will win me a bet that I have 
just made." " What is it ? " asked Toole. " Why," 
said Sothern, " in the coffee-room there is a crusty- 
looking old boy of the John Ball pattern, evidently 
an habitue of the place, pecking a steak, and 
sipping a pint of port, and I've just told our 
friend here that when you came I'd get you to go 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 265 

and give him a rouser in the back, send him 
sprawling on to the table on top of his steak and 
his wine, just as if he was your dearest friend. 
This man bets me a fiver that you daren't do it." 
" What nonsense ! " said Toole. " There's nothing 
in that. I'll do it at once, because, of course, I 
can make it up with an immediate and complete 
apology." Off went Toole to the coffee-room, and 
from thence there soon came the sound of the loud 
voice of an elderly gentleman boiling over with 
indignation, the sharp ringing of bells, and a great 
cry for the landlord. Stopping that individual in 
the passage, Sothern said, " I'm sorry this should 
have happened. Mr. Toole, the comedian, is in 
the coffee-room, and I have reason to believe that 
he is wantonly insulting one of your oldest 
customers." Then, passing quickly into the street, 
he hailed a cab, and, in the best of spirits, drove 
away. 

Dr. Westland Marston tells the famous story 
of Sothern and the undertaker as follows : — 

" One of the best anecdotes of him is that 
which tells of a visit to a furnishing undertaker, 
from whom he ordered, on a most elaborate scale, 



266 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

all that was necessary for a funeral. Before the 
preparations could have gone far he reappeared 
with great solicitude to ask how they were pro- 
gressing. Again, at a brief interval, he presented 
himself, with an anxious face, to inquire when he 
could count upon possession of the body — a ques- 
tion which naturally amazed the undertaker, who 
was at a loss to discover his meaning. ' Of 
course you provide the body,' said Sothern, 
coming to his enlightenment. ' The body ! ' stam- 
mered the bewildered undertaker. ' Why, do you 
not say/ exclaimed the actor, exhibiting a card of 
the shop, ' " All things necessary for funerals 
promptly supplied " ? Is not a body the very first 
necessity ? ' " 

Although it appeared in the days of his im- 
paired health, the following extraordinary story 
contributed, with his name attached to it, to the 
1878 Christmas number of the New York Spirit 
of the Times, may suitably be added to this 
chapter on " Sothern in High Spirits." 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 267 

"AN INCIDENT IN THE LIFE OF A 
PAGAN BABY, 

BY 

E. A. SOTHERN. 

" The little story I am about to relate will 
possess a special interest for those who, like 
myself, have occupied some portion of their leisure 
in the fascinating yet perplexing study of metem- 
psychosis. It will, doubtless, surprise many to 
whom I am known only as an amusing — perhaps 
not invariably amusing — performer on the dra- 
matic stage, to learn that I have, for more than 
thirty years, devoted my spare moments to the 
investigation of this phenomenon, on the severest 
lines of the analytic and inductive system of the 
ancients. But in this duplex development of 
activity I am not alone. If the public only knew 
as much as I do of the inner and separate lives 
of those whom the public so liberally establishes 
as favourites, people would cease to regard the 
farceur only as a farceur, the entertainer only as 
an entertainer, the comedian only as a comedian 
and might now and then catch a glimpse of the 



268 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

philosopher's robe beneath the gaudy garments 
of ' the poor player, who struts and frets his hour 
upon the stage, and then is heard no more.' 

" Will my readers pardon me if, for one serious 
moment, I occupy their attention with a simple 
statement of the signification which, it appears 
to me, should inexorably attach to the doctrine 
of metempsychosis ? It may make more clear 
the true bearing of the singular story which I 
have undertaken to write for the Christmas Spirit. 
Inductive philosophy, if it teaches us anything, 
surely establishes as an eternal axiom that 
physical promptings cannot, with impunity, be 
disregarded. I do not overlook or undervalue 
the importance — the sad importance — of uncon- 
querable Force, with all the cruel conditions that 
follow in its wake. The logic of facts impels us 
irresistibly to this conclusion. Nothing in nature 
is more certain ; and those who refer to super- 
natural characteristics the overmastering instincts 
of elementary humanity, will inevitably eventuate 
in that deep and discordant chaos into which the 
daring mind must fall, which defiantly assumes to 
limit the sphere of the material man to an inco- 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 269 

herent effort to give efficient expression to the 
Infinite and the Eternal. I ask pardon for this 
digression, but it was necessary. What follows 
will now be more clearly understood, and more 
fully comprehended. 

"In the month of October, 187 — , I was 
sitting on the balcony of a small hotel in the 

town of . I think it better, in the interest 

of persons still living, that I should not give the 
names of places which might be identified. It 
was a calm evening ; the leaves were falling and 
fluttering to earth, sad emblems of the perennial 
decay of nature to which all life submits. A 
grey-bearded, aged man, wearing a fez cap, was 
silently smoking on an adjacent chair. His 
Orientalism was patent, but the diagnosis of his 
nationality was sufficiently difficult. With a lazy 
effort of careless curiosity, I addressed him, 
making a remark on the beauty of the weather ; 
but he smoked on tranquilly without moving his 
head. I concluded from his silence that he was 
not familiar with French, German, or Italian, and 
was equally unacquainted with the somewhat 
unmusical English tongue. My knowledge of 



270 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

Arabic, I regret to say, is limited to a few every- 
day phrases, and these too were unavailing to 
arouse the absorbed attention of my neighbour. 
I tried him in Telegu, of which I speak a few 
words, with no better result. Piqued by his 
silence and my own failure, I summoned up all 
the Chinese I had acquired when I was in San 
Francisco and Sacramento, and was agreeably 
relieved when, at once throwing off his languor, 
and beaming with vivacity and animation, he 
drew his chair toward me, and, fixing his eyes 
on mine, spoke rapidly in that language for 
several minutes. His accent was peculiar, a kind 
of Perso-Oopt intonation permeating his delivery, 
and he made frequent employment of idiomatic 
phrases which I readily recognized as character- 
istics of the Cantonese; but I understood him 
perfectly, and we were soon engaged in a most 
agreeable conversation, in which, I must modestly 
admit, he took a principal part. 

" Conversation begat confidence, and he told 
me the story of his life. He was born in the 
village of Hi-Ho, near the sources of the well- 
known ' Yellow River.' His father was a maker 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 271 

of wooden pattens, used by the Chinese in damp 
weather as a needful defence against the humidity 
of the country. Like all Chinese of his social 
standing, his own impoverished condition was 
no hindrance to his parental ambition. He was 
fully imbued with those sentiments of equality 
which are so remarkable a feature in the social 
and political condition of China, where the ex- 
tremes of republican theory and dynastic auto- 
cracy seem to coexist not inharmoniously. Ground 
to the earth by sordid poverty, living in a chronic 
state of semi-starvation, ignorant as a pair of his 
own pattens, A chi cherished the confident aspira- 
tion that one day a son would be born to him in 
his mud-cabin who would rise to the loftiest 
pinnacle of state in the empire. In this hope he 
was justified, and in this expectation he was not 
disappointed. The day arrived, and an infant 
was placed in his arms on whose yet undeveloped 
features the fond father could trace, with the eye 
of ambition and exultation, the stamp of future 
greatness. 

" It is a trite remark that, in ethics, evil is but 
a consequence of good ; sorrow gives birth to joy ; 

18 



272 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

memory changes into misery ; what is a blessing 
to-day may be a curse to-morrow. There is 
evidence to warrant the opinion that these con- 
clusions are not fortuitous nor accidental, but are 
the outcome of a remorseless logic, rooted in Fact 
alone. 

" I myself have never yielded to an absolute 
acquiescence to the doctrine of Confucius, so ably 
expounded in his eleventh book of his ' Moral 
Propositions.' Yet in the career of the young 
Chinese whose story I am relating, we might 
discern a confirmation of all the great Chinese 
apostle has advanced, if we could only abstract 
our confidence from vague speculations, and bind 
it rigorously down by the iron bands of reason, 
and reason alone. 

" But I wander from my story. Passing rapidly 
through the communal schools of the district, and 
the College of Canton, the son of A-chi, who as 
yet had received no distinctive name, for reasons 
which will appear hereafter, reached the academic 
acme of Chinese acquirement, the Athenaeum of 
Pekin, where his grand effort was to be made. 
His remarkable career had already attracted 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 273 

general notice, and a report of his splendid talents 
had been made to the Grand Central Commissioner 
of Education, and had even reached the Imperial 
chamber itself. Naturally, when the culminating 
epoch had arrived, and the son of A-chi, the 
patten-maker of Hi-Ho, entered the Examination 
Hall, and, with elaborate ceremonial, was inducted 
into the secluded apartment from which he would 
emerge, after many days, either first of the first, 
with all China at his feet, or a broken and 
humiliated creature, the excitement was very 
great. Never before had a youth of such promise 
passed the venerable portals. The destiny of the 
very empire itself might hang on the issue of the 
trial. Every precaution was adopted ; chosen 
guards were stationed at the door and relieved 
night and day. All access to the outer world and 
its human sympathies was jealously cut off. The 
son of A-chi was alone with himself and with 
Fate. 

" From that hour to this he has never been heard 
of. The story is told. The reader will draw 
his own conclusions. I have my theory, which 
must for ever be kept secret. Nothing would 



274 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

induce me to divulge it, or even give a clue to 
the solution of the tremendous mystery. The 
consequence might be too dreadful. One word, 
and one word only, I may venture to add. This 
story is literally true. On that I stake my credit 
and my reputation. But if there be — as I firmly 
believe there are — minds so acute that they can, 
as it were, with an inverted eye, glance in 
' behind the veil,' there they may trace the 
mighty workings of those eternal principles 
which have been to me an inexpressible consola- 
tion, and have impressed deep on my soul the 
assured conviction that we are happy because 
we are good, that everything is nothing, and that 
virtue is its own reward." 

The editor of the Spirit of the Times says, in 
an ''editorial note" in his leading columns : "We 
regard that incident in a pagan baby's life as 
Sothern's latest and most stupendous joke. If 
any reader can inform us what the incident was, 
or where the pagan baby comes in, his penetration 
exceeds ours. In this production we can only 
fancy that Sothern intends to represent the in- 
consequential intellect of Dundreary when grap- 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 275 

pling with metaphysical or psychological themes. 
There is no more connection between the title 
and what follows it than there is between the 
question and answer to one of ' My Lord's ' most 
feeble conundrums. The reader begins the article 
with the thought that Sothern intends to be 
serious for once, but as he proceeds he finds 
himself wallowing in a bog of high-sounding 
inanity, and emerges from the perusal without 
an idea remaining. What Sothern means by 
it should be added to the World's list of ques- 
tions." 

Sothern's friends will remember his odd and 
irresistible way of sending out an invitation. 
" Don't forget," he would write on a pro- 
digious number of post-cards, " that you break- 
fast with me at twelve o'clock on Sunday, 
the — inst." Each recipient of the communi- 
cation would probably jump to the conclusion 
that he had made an appointment which he had 
forgotten, accept this as a reminder, and make 
a very special point of keeping his supposed 
engagement. And when he found himself under 
Sothern's roof, and in the presence of a veritable 



276 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

host of mutual friends, he would have occasion to 
remember not only the quaint invitation but his 
unbounded hospitality. 

Sothern's elaborately planned practical jokes 
were never absolutely complete to him unless he 
contrived to get them noticed in a newspaper. 
On the face of it this looks like a desire for 
advertisement; but I do not believe that this 
had anything to do with it. He knew a good 
deal about newspapers, and was fully alive to 
the fact that those who have to do with them 
are generally on the alert. When he could, 
to use his own words, " sell an editor," his joy 
was supreme. A remarkably successful effort 
in this direction (although the cutting is before 
me I may be excused from mentioning the name 
of the paper from which it was taken) runs as 
follows : — 

" A Crazy Admirer. 

" Singular Conduct in a Theatre. 

" At the Canterbury Theatre, the other 
evening, Mr. Sothern and Mr. Sefton's London 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 277 

Company were performing ' David Garrick/ the 
principal lady part in which was filled by Miss 
Amy Roselle, a very graceful and pleasing young 
actress. Shortly before the curtain rose, a pretty 
little bouquet of snowdrops and green leaves was 
left at the stage door, with a note addressed to 
Miss Roselle, couched in terms of admiration, but 
perfectly respectful and polite. The writer said 
he had come from Tunbridge Wells to see Miss 
Roselle act once more, and offered ' the few first 
flowers of spring ' for her acceptance, hoping she 
would wear them. There was nothing in this 
to create much surprise, such floral tributes to 
pretty and popular actresses being not uncommon. 
Miss Roselle wore the snowdrops in the opening 
act of the play, during the course of which a 
second note, this time written in pencil, but on 
the same kind of paper, was delivered at the 
stage door. This epistle was more ardent, and 
induced a suspicion of the perfect sanity of the 
writer, which was turned into certainty by what 
followed. During the second act a third note 
found its way to the green-room, and this time 
the undisciplined feelings of the swain had found 



278 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

vent in poetry. The following lines were en- 
closed : — 

' I'll dream of thee to-night, Roselle, 
I'll dream of thee to-night ; 
Thy face will haunt my dreams, Roselle, 

Though absent from my sight ; 
My love for thee no words can tell, 
My own, my beautiful Roselle ! 

F. R. M.' 

The writer said he was occupying a stall, the 
number of which he indicated. At the end of 
the play Miss Roselle found awaiting her a fourth 
letter with a parcel. The former contained a 
most enthusiastic declaration of ardent affection, 
referred to the writer's large properties in the 
West Indies, and solicited permission to present 
to her the accompanying example of the produce 
of an estate in Havanna — the said ' example ' 
proving on examination to be an enormous piece 
of sugar-stick, literally stick, for it was upwards 
of two feet long, and fully an inch thick. The 
sender of the singular token said he was in 
mourning for his mother, and that, however 
peculiar his conduct might appear, he really was 
not mad, though false friends said he was. In a 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 279 

postscript he added that he now was going to 
purchase something which he hoped Miss Roselle 
would wear for his sake. In about a quarter 
of an hour a fifth letter was handed in, containing 
a soft parcel. When this was examined it proved 
to be a penny packet of egg powder for making 
custards, and a statement that he who placed this 
token at her fair feet was ready to die for her 
if necessary. By this time there was no room 
for doubt as to there being a lunatic among the 
audience, and a watch being set, a respectably 
attired and gentlemanly-looking man, with a 
very wild eye and excited demeanour, was 
remarked in the back of the pit. Just as the 
last piece — in which Miss Eoselle did not appear 
— was being played, this person was observed 
to jump up and down, and to throw his arms 
about wildly; but the officials of the theatre 
being prepared, he was at once quietly but firmly 
removed, without attracting the attention of the 
audience. He went away perfectly quiet, and 
without remonstrance or resistance, from which 
it may be concluded he was the author of the 
extraordinary series of letters, and the sender 



280 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN\ 

of the still more extraordinary tokens of admira- 
tion which we have described. Not being known 
by any one about the theatre, it is supposed that he 
had really, as he said, come over from Tunbridge 
Wells." " 

The whole of this ridiculous story is perfectly 
true, up to the period of the presentation of the egg 
powder. So far, Sothern, in one of his wild moods, 
could easily plan it ; but there was no madman in 
the stalls, and no scene in the pit, and no removal 
of any one. After the performance was over 
Sothern invited the editor of the country paper to 
chat with him in the hotel in which he was stay- 
ing, and, talking over " the strange occurrences of 
the evening," very easily induced him to ask a 
friend who was present to write an account of 
them for his paper. Then a subsequent paragraph 
went the round of the papers to the effect that this 
same " lunatic lover " would go to the theatres in 
which Miss Roselle appeared, " dressed all in 
blue, with a packet of Borwick's baking powder 
ready to throw at the feet of the object of his 
adoration," and Sothern was perfectly happy. I 
do not think that until many years later on Miss 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 281 

Amy Koselle (now Mrs. Arthur Dacre, and under 
whose permission I publish this anecdote) knew 
that she had been the victim of a hoax. 

In America, Sothern seemed to find newspaper 
reports of his ridiculous escapades easier to obtain 
than in England, and that, in his odd way, he set 
great store by them is proved by his own carefully 
kept scrap-book, which still exists. Again let me say 
that I do not believe that Sothern did these things 
for the sake of notoriety. No actor was ever more 
keenly alive to the commercial value in these 
advertising days of legitimate (perhaps I ought to 
add, and illegitimate) advertisement, and to obtain 
one I have known him do extraordinary things 
(such as giving a sovereign to a railway porter, 
where sixpence would have sufficed, so that he 
might talk to his comrades of the munificence of 
Sothern, and set them thinking they would go and 
see this auriferous being on the stage) ; but with 
him these jokes were a thing apart, that satisfied 
some curious want in his restless nature. He did 
not retain a single advertisement of his stage per- 
formances, but he carefully cherished the records of 
his diablerie. Let me quote from his scrap-book. 



282 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN". 

During one of his American engagements (it- 
was in 1878) he inveigled some one into writing 
to the Inter Ocean as follows : — 

" Is Mr. Sothern a medium ? This is the 
question that fifteen puzzled investigators are 
asking themselves this morning, after witnessing 
a number of astounding manifestations at a 
private seance given by Mr. Sothern last night. 

" It lacked a few minutes of twelve when a 
number of Mr. Sothern's friends, who had been 
given to understand that something remarkable 
was to be performed, assembled in the former's 
rooms at the Sherman House, and took seats in 
a circle around a marble-top table which was 
placed in the centre of the apartment. On the 
table were a number of glasses, two very large 
bottles, and five lemons. A sprightly young 
gentleman attempted to crack a joke about spirits 
being confined in the bottles, but the company 
frowned him down, and for once Mr. Sothern had 
a sober audience to begin with. 

" There was a good deal of curiosity regarding 
the object of the gathering, but no one was able 
to explain. Each gentleman testified to the fact 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 283 

that Mr. Sothern's agent had waited upon him, 
and solicited his presence at a little exhibition 
to be given by the actor, not of a comical nature. 

" Mr. Sothern himself soon after appeared, 
and, after shaking hands with the party, thus 
addressed them : — 

" ' Gentlemen, I have invited you here this 
evening to witness a few manifestations, demon- 
strations, tests, or whatever you choose to call 
them, which I have accidentally discovered that I 
am able to perform. 

" ' I am a fire-eater, as it were. {Applause.) I 
used to dread the fire, having been scorched once 
when an innocent child. (A laugh.) I hope there 
will be no levity here, and I wish to say now that 
demonstrations of any kind are liable to upset me, 
while demonstrations of particular kinds may 
upset the audience.' 

" Silence and decorum being restored, Mr. 
Sothern thus continued : — 

" ' Thirteen weeks ago, while walking up Green- 
wich Street in New York, I stepped into a store 
to buy a cigar. To show you there was no trick 
about it, here are cigars out of the same box 



284 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

from which I selected the one that I that day 
lighted.' 

" Here Mr. Sothern passed round a box of 
tolerable cigars. 

" ' Well ! I stepped to the little hanging gas- 
jet to light it, and, having done so, stood con- 
templatively holding the cigar and the gas-jet in 
either hand, thinking what a saving it would be 
to smoke a pipe, when, in my absent-mindedness, 
I dropped the cigar and put the gas-jet into my 
mouth. Strange as it may appear, I felt no pain, 
and stood there holding the thing in my mouth 
and puffing, until the man in charge yelled out 
to me that I was swallowing his gas. Then I 
looked up, and sure enough there I was, pulling 
away at the slender flame that came from the 
glass tube. 

" ' I dropped it instantly and felt my mouth, 
but noticed no inconvenience or unpleasant sen- 
sation whatever. 

" ' " What do you mean by it?" asked the 
proprietor. 

" ■ As I didn't know what I meant by it I 
couldn't answer, so I picked up my cigar and 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 285 

went home. Once there, I tried the experiment 
again, and in doing so I found that not only my 
mouth, but my hands and face, indeed, all my 
body, was proof against fire. I called on a 
physician, and he examined me and reported 
nothing wrong with my flesh, which appeared to 
be in its normal condition. I said nothing about 
it publicly, but the fact greatly surprised me, and 
I have invited you here to-night to witness a few 
experiments.' 

" Saying this, Mr. Sothern, who had lit a 
cigar while pausing in his speech, turned the fire- 
end into his mouth, and sat down smoking uncon- 
cernedly. 

"'I suppose you wish to give us the fire test?' 
remarked one of the company. 

" Mr. Sothern nodded. 

" There was probably a company never more 
dumfounded than that present in the room. A 
few questions were asked, and then five gentle- 
men were appointed to examine Mr. Sothern's 
hands, etc., before he began his experiments. 
Having thoroughly washed the parts that he pro- 
posed to subject to the flames, Mr. Sothern began 



286 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

by baring bis arm, and passing it through tbe 
gas-jet very slowly, twice stopping tbe motion, 
and bolding it still in tbe flames. He tben 
picked up a poker witb a sort of book on tbe 
end, and proceeded to fish a small coil of wire 
from tbe grate. Tbe wire came out fairly wbite 
witb beat. Mr. Sotbern took tbe coil in bis 
hands and coolly proceeded to wrap it round bis 
left leg to the knee. Having done so, be stood 
on tbe table in the centre of the circle, and 
requested the committee to examine tbe wrappings 
and tbe leg, and report if both were there. Tbe 
committee did so, and reported in the affirmative. 

" While this was going on there was a smile, 
almost seraphic in its beauty, on Sotbern's face. 

" After this, an enormous iron, in the shape of 
a horse-shoe, was brought in, and after being 
heated red-hot was placed over his neck and 
shoulders like a horse-collar, where it cooled, and 
was taken off without leaving a sign of a burn. 

" As a final test a tailor's goose was put on 
the coals, and, after being thoroughly heated, was 
placed on Mr. Sothern's chair. The latter 
lighted a fresh cigar, and then coolly took his 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 287 

seat on the goose without the least seeming 
inconvenience. During the last experiment, Mr. 
Sothern sang in excellent taste and voice, ' I'm 
sitting on the stile, Mary.' 

" The question now is, were the fifteen 
auditors of Mr. Sothern fooled and deceived, or 
was this a genuine manifestation of extraordinary 
power ? Sothern is such an inveterate joker that 
he may have put the thing upon the boys for his 
own amusement, but if so it was one of the nicest 
tricks ever witnessed by, 
" Yours truly, 

" One of the Committee. 

" P.S. — What is equally marvellous to me is 
that the fire didn't burn his clothes where it 
touched them, any more than his flesh." 

Although he inserted this remarkable com- 
munication, the editor of the Inter Ocean seems 
to " have had his doubts," for he adds in a foot- 
note : — 

[" There is nothing new in this. Mr. Sothern 
has long been known as one of the most expert 
jugglers in the profession. Some years ago he 

19 



288 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

gained the soubriquet of * the Fire King.' He 
frequently amuses his friends by eating fire, 
though he long since ceased to give public 
exhibitions. Probably the success of the experi- 
ments last night was largely owing to the 
presence of the lemons. There is a good deal of 
trickery in those same lemons."] 

The ubiquitous American interviewer was no 
doubt considered by Sothern as the fairest of fair 
game for his " sells." Here is an account that he 
gave to one of them of the origin of " The Crushed 
Tragedian," the original creation of H. J. Byron: — 

'""The Crushed Tragedian,"' said Mr. Sothern, 
'presents a character that I discovered under 
very quaint circumstances about five years since, 
while travelling in a carriage of the Midland 
Railway of England. My only companion was 
an extrordinary creature, whose reproduction is 
the Fitzaltamont of the play. Shortly after the 
train started the stranger who had been sus- 
piciously restless rose to his feet and began 
pacing the carriage, muttering deeply the while. 
As his frenzy increased, I became alarmed, and 
speculated upon the chances of jumping through 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 289 

the window. Just as the train reached the mouth 
of a tunnel, the fellow seized me by the arm. I, 
wide awake, but terrified, ^struck him a blow 
between the eyes, knocking him down, and as I 
knelt upon his chest I asked him, with natural 
asperity, what the devil he wanted. The luckless 
wretch, gasping for breath, whispered, "Wanted ? 
Why, I wanted you to buy a box for my benefit 
at Birmingham." This,' he concluded, ' was the 
original Crushed Tragedian.' I asked Mr. Sothern 
if he bought the box, and although he made me 
no answer, I am satisfied that when the genuine 
and since counterfeit articles separated, there was 
enough crisp paper in the pocket of a certain 
threadbare vest to buy something more than a 
bottle of arnica." 

Another interviewer, not quite so easily taken 
in, had the laugh of Sothern by publishing his 
nonsense as follows : — 

"I believe I mentioned Mr. Sothern's hesita- 
tion in saying anything about himself. I had 
great difficulty in overcoming it, but finally 
succeeded in worming out of him certain re- 
markable facts in his history which enable me 



290 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

to give you a succinct biography, which, in the 
event of his death, can be built upon and serve 
as an obituary. The facts that I give you, 
although a trifle different from the public belief 
in regard to the gentleman, I can vouch for as 
strictly correct, for I gained every line of my 
information from himself. Mr. Sothern claims 
to be a Turk. The newspaper reports that have 
been widely circulated to the effect that he is a 
Russian, he indignantly denies, and states that 
they are utterly untrue. I have, in addition to 
his own statement, other good authority for this, 
and I am satisfied that he is a Turk. He was 
born in Constantinople on the fourth day of 
March, 1829. This was the year w T hen the cele- 
brated — but I am wandering from my topic. 
His early youth was only remarkable for his 
failure to distinguish himself. This, however, 
he hopes to overcome. He has done more to 
annihilate the institution of the harem than any 
other Moslem on the stage. His father, as every 
one is aware, was a Russian. His mother was 
a Polish exile. His early life w^as passed in 
Tartary, hence his extraordinary knowledge of 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 291 

languages, and his passionate appetite for Siberian 
crab-apples and tonic beer. It seems sad to learn 
that he contemplates leaving the stage, but with 
his peculiar vein of humour there is, when I think 
of it, no reason why he should not make a suc- 
cessful undertaker. He informs me that at the 
close of his engagement in Baltimore he will 
proceed at once to Pekin, China, where he has 
made a brief engagement at the Royal Opera 
House. He also contemplates a visit to Africa 
and Eastern Shore, Maryland. His object in 
visiting the latter section of the country is to 
be on hand when, under existing laws, a vacancy 
exists for United States senator. He is now 
making arrangements with George Francis Train, 
Benjamin F. Butler, and Henry Ward Beecher, 
for a course of instruction to fit him to become 
a member of the second branch of the Baltimore 
city council, where he intends making his political 
debut. With these few remarks with regard to 
Mr. Sothern, I will close by saying, ' Truth is 
often stranger than fiction.' " 

On being " interviewed " concerning the "fire 
test," and a " challenge " that had been sent him 



292 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

in connection therewith, Sothern sent for the 
manager of the hotel in which he was staying, 
and in which the so-called experiments had been 
carried on, and said — 

" Now, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll send for 
an ironmonger and have the floor plated with 
boiler iron, if you will allow me to build a furnace 
in the centre of the room. I merely want to 
make the test. I don't want to bet, because then 
I should feel as if I were swindling somebody. 
I have never tried this, but I feel perfectly sure 
of the result." 

" What do you want with the furnace ? " asked 
the hotel manager. 

" I will permit myself," said Sothern, " to be 
imbedded in a mass of any kind of fuel my 
challenger may select — tar barrels, and resin, ad 
libitum. Then I will allow any member of a 
committee to apply the torch." 

" Isn't that going a little too far, Mr. Sothern?" 
asked the newspaper interviewer. 

" Well, I may be mistaken," replied Sothern. 
" but I feel sure of the result — sure of it. At all 
events, I will give ten thousand dollars to any 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 293 

charitable fund in this city if I do not come out 
unscathed." 

" What ! " exclaimed the hotel manager, with 
his eyes like saucers. 

" Provided," continued Sothern, " that my chal- 
lenger will undergo the same test at the same time — 
neither of us to remain in the furnace more than 
fifteen minutes after the whole mass of fuel shall 
be in flames, and both of us to be perfectly nude." 

This point of the question having been settled, 
the interviewer went on — 

" Have you ever, Mr. Sothern, submitted your- 
self to any other tests ? " 

" Oh yes ; I once played six weeks in Phila- 
delphia during the Exhibition, with the thermo- 
meter in my dressing-room at 128." 

How he showed up the tricks of a professional 
mesmerist is in the Chicago Tribune thus re- 
corded : — 

" A few days since, Mr. Sothern, who is often 
credited with being a spiritual medium, but who 
is in reality a 4 hard-shell ' sceptic in regard to 
all such matters, invited Mr. Carpenter to his 
rooms in the Sherman House, for the purpose 



294 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERN. 

of testing his powers. Favourable enough con- 
ditions were named, but Mr. Carpenter saw fit 
to postpone the seance till yesterday afternoon, 
when a select party of some fifteen people — at 
least one-third of them being ladies — were pre- 
sent. If sincerity of purpose can be named as 
a favourable condition for such manifestations, the 
Professor could certainly have found no cause to 
object. It w T as not one of Sothern's * sells ' by 
any means. The company were one and all pre- 
pared to be convinced, and they submitted to the 
manipulations of the operator very readily. But, 
alas ! one after another persisted in declining to 
keep their eyes closed after being commanded to 
do so. There was not one who would see snakes 
in canes, or babies in broomhandles, or perform 
any funny tricks at the bidding of the magician. 
The Professor suddenly discovered that he had 
struck an obstinate crowd of folks who had no 
object in being duped. 

" Ah ! yes ; there was one, — an uninvited 
guest, — a very young man of mild aspect, with 
dreamy eyes and uncertain features, who had 
come into the room almost unobserved. He 



S0THERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 295 

turned out to be a friend of Mr. Carpenter's. 
The mesmerist, after making futile passes over 
the eyes of all the rest, suddenly found in the 
eyes of the young person a remarkably sensitive 
organization. He mesmerised him in five seconds. 
He made him nearly tumble off a piano stool ; he 
caused him to stiffen his arms ; he invited the 
company to pinch his hands, which, he claimed, 
were dead to the sense of touch. It would have 
been a convincing test to an ordinary audience, 
but it was a very ill-disguised case of confederacy 
to all the guests in the room. 

" Mr. Sothern took a brass pin from one of the 
ladies and deliberately bored it through the lobe 
of his own ear, never changing a muscle. 'Now,' 
he said, ' you can stick a knife through my hand, 
and I won't flinch. I can do that awake. Is 
that any proof of your powers ? ' 

"The Professor gave it up, and the young 
man sat down rather sheepishly. Mr. Carpenter, 
of course, claimed, as most spiritual mediums do, 
that the physical and atmospheric conditions were 
unfavourable, and so forth. The seance proved 
to be a conspicuous failure, as seances generally 



296 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN". 

do in the presence of a company of intelligent 
people, unless with the aid of intelligent con- 
federates. The inference is that the people 
who so amused the audience at Mr. Carpenter's 
seance at the Theatre last Sunday had had a 
careful rehearsal of their parts before they went 
on to the stage to make fools of themselves. 
There may be something in mesmerism, but there 
is evidently something in Mr. Carpenter's opera- 
tions that calls for investigation by believers, if 
believers can be persuaded to doubt at all. 

" At the close of the exhibition Mr. Sothern 
mesmerised the entire company, one after another, 
in a manner which would have convinced any 
audience that he possessed supernatural power, 
did they not know, — what turned out to be the 
fact, — that by a clever contrivance of the arch- 
juggler every member of the party was trying to 
fool each other. This may not be the whole 
secret of mesmerism ; but ' confedding,' as Sothern 
calls it, evidently constitutes an important element 
in the operations of Mr. Carpenter. When next 
he gives an exhibition, it may be well to inter- 
view his 'subjects/ and find out who they are, 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 297 

and what inducements they had to go out of 
their minds for the amusement of the public." 

An escapade that gained for Sothern the 
doubtful notoriety of an awful illustration in an 
Illustrated Police News, entitled, " Sothern the 
Comedian, and the Ruffian Intruder," and in which 
the soul of this inveterate practical joker abso- 
lutely revelled, was thus reported in a Californian 
paper : " We have already informed our readers 
that Mr. Sothern, during his trip from New York, 
had got into some little trouble on the cars. Our 
reporter called on Mr. Sothern, but was unable 
to see him. Our reporter then interviewed the 
conductor. It appears that Mr. Towne had the 
thoughtful courtesy to telegraph to Ogdon to the 
effect that Mr. Sothern was to have the sole use 
of the directors' car. Mr. Sothern appreciated 
the kind compliment, and telegraphed his thanks. 
The following morning, however, he discovered 
a six-feet-twoer calmly stretched on his sofa, 
coolly smoking his cigars, and sipping his iced 
claret. Mr. Sothern suggested, in the gentlest 
terms, that the big stranger had made a slight 
mistake, as the car was a private one. ' Private 



298 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

be hanged ! ' exclaimed the stalwart stranger. 
' It's big enough for a dozen thin fellows like 
you ! ' ' Possibly,' replied Mr. Sothern ; ' but as 
you have not even the politeness to apologize for 
the intrusion, I request you to leave it' l Not 
if I know it,' ejaculated the brawny stranger. 
Enter the conductor. Conductor : ' Now then, sir ; 
please to move to your own seat.' Mysterious 
stranger : ' If either of you bother me any longer, 
I'll knock your heads together and pitch you out 
of the car. It's only going twenty-five miles an 
hour, and it won't hurt much.' Sothern (coolly 
taking his coat off) : ' Come, this is getting 
interesting. Conductor, sit down and do a 
gentle smoke whilst I endeavour to bring our 
large friend to his senses.' Conductor sits and 
smokes. Gloomy stranger rises, glares, and 
makes a rush at Sothern, hitting him a blow on 
the mouth. ' There, that settles the matter," 
says the stranger. ' Not quite,' replied Sothern ; 
and, playfully giving him one, two, three, on the 
eyes, nose, and mouth, closes with him, and sends 
him spinning over the rail at the end of the car. 
The alarm is given, and the train stops. The 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 299 

mysterious stranger is picked up insensible, 
bleeding at the nose, ears, and mouth. Sothern 
relinquishes the private car to him. A doctor on 
the train attends to him, and says, ' A compound 
fracture.' He still lies in extreme danger ; but 
the verdict of every one is, ' Served him right.' ' 

Concerning the exact truth of this adventure, 
Sothern was always reticent. There was, beyond 
all doubt, a noisy struggle in a railway carriage 
between him and what looked very like a man, — 
and a something wearing coat, waistcoat, and 
trousers was by him hurled from the train, — but 
it is quite certain that he never in that way took, 
or nearly took, the life of a fellow-creature. The 
story, however, got about and was implicitly 
believed. The coarsely executed engraving, show- 
ing Sothern wrestling with a veritable giant, is in 
its way delicious, and at the time of its appear- 
ance gave him infinite delight. 

Another " illustrated " episode, which appeared 
in a similar publication, was entitled, " Farewell 
Appearance of Mr. Sothern at an Unlicensed Per- 
formance on Ramsgate Sands. An Acrobat Dis- 
comfited," and was described as follows : — 



300 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

" Considerable excitement was caused on Rams- 
gate Sands the other morning by the appearance 
of a man with his arms tied behind him, raving 
and shouting at the top of his voice, and a crowd 
around him convulsed with laughter. The man 
w r as, it seems, a travelling mountebank, perform- 
ing what he called the rope trick ; and on the 
morning in question he had offered himself to be 
tied up by any of the bystanders. Mr. Sothern, 
the comedian, passing at the time, determined to 
try upon him the effect of his celebrated * Tom 
Fool Knot.' The success of it was proved beyond 
doubt by the acrobat stamping about for an hour 
with fruitless endeavours to get loose, when Mr. 
Sothern took compassion on him and undid his 
bonds." 

This anecdote was founded on absolute fact. 

I will conclude a chapter which, if I related 
all the jokes in which Sothern acted as principal 
or took part, might be spun out into a goodly 
sized volume, with an account of one (I am 
afraid it has often been told before) eminently 
characteristic of him. At a dinner-party in his 
own house, at which ten gentlemen were present, 



SOTHERN IN HIGH SPIRITS. 301 

his friend and sometime agent, Mr. English, was 
apparently unexpectedly announced. Sothern 
immediately appealed to his guests to conceal 
themselves under the dinner-table, declaring that 
they would " sell " English in a manner beyond 
all precedent. His compliant friends at once fell 
in with his request, and Mr. English, coming into 
the room, sat down by Sothern, and, without 
taking any notice of the vacant chairs or the 
disordered table, began leisurely to discuss the 
business that had brought him to the house. 
Sothern on his part said nothing about his guests, 
until one by one, tired with their position under 
the table, and quite unable to see where the 
humour of the situation came in, they crawled 
out, took their seats, and the interrupted dinner 
went on. Neither Sothern nor his agent (of 
course he was on this occasion also his accomplice) 
took the slightest notice of them, and to the end 
of their days they will fail to see how it was that 
" English was sold." 

I have now said enough concerning these 
elaborately contrived, humorous, but generally 
unsatisfactory, and sometimes almost pitiless 



302 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERtf. 

undertakings. I ought, however, to add that 
whereas Sothern's delight in recounting them 
knew no bounds, his remorse when he felt that 
through them he had annoyed a friend was limit- 
less. The handsome presents that, the joke being- 
over, he would lavish upon his victims must have 
cost him a small fortune of what may fittingly be 
termed conscience-money. 

Of his many quaint methods of advertising 
I give an example in the accompanying facsimile 
of a note on the " Bank of Dundreary,''* at one 
time in extensive circulation. 





N?2840 















Stf&S 



PRINCE OP WALES THEATRE 




20 



( 303 ) 



CONCLUSION. 

The later years of Sothern's restless and over- 
crowded life were more or less sad ones ; but he 
was the last to see that, under an undue strain of 
work and worry, his health was giving way. 

" It is impossible," he wrote, " for me to 
explain what a staggerer it was when Sir William 
Jenner and Professor Simpson quietly handed 
me their opinion of my case. A second opinion 
was given to-day, which was precisely the same 
as the first one ; but the whole affair has worried 
me so much that I made up my mind that I 
would carry out my engagements, whatever the 
result. I, myself, still can't believe that I am as 
ill as the doctors think. I know and feel that I 
want rest ; but I believe it's purely overwork, and 
that I shall pull through, for my constitution is 

IRON, 

i.e. it was ! " 

20-2 



304 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

And so, for a while, he struggled on ; but in 
a few months the iron constitution by which he 
had set so much store, and which he had so sorely- 
tried, failed him, and in July, 1880, he addressed 
the following letter to the New York Spirit of 
the Times, in explanation of his inability to fulfil 
his American engagements : — 

" I have been, and still am, dangerously ill, 
and am under charge of a celebrated physician in 
such nervous complaints, but so weak that I can 
scarcely crawl from room to room. The doctor 
says he believes he can cure me. I do not — but 
that doesn't seem to signify. I know that I have 
as many lives as a cat, — but possibly this may be 
my ninth." 

Alas ! he was in his forebodings only too 
accurate, and after months of patiently-borne 
suffering he died, on Thursday, January 21, 1881, 
at his then London residence, in Yere Street, 
Cavendish Square. 

" Sothern," it was then truthfully written, 
" was looked upon during the days of his best 
health and strength as public property, and when 
his work was done there was scarcely any form 



CONCLUSION. 305 

of society, from Bohemia to Belgravia, where 
there was not a cordial and courteous welcome for 
one who added to his refinement of manner all 
those qualities that are summed up in what the 
world calls a * good fellow.' Such incitements 
and excitements tell, however, upon constitutions, 
however strong and elastic. Nervous tempera- 
ments stand these tests pretty well ; but in the 
case of this genial and accomplished actor, wit, 
wag, and boon companion, never at rest — now in 
the hunting-field or whipping some salmon-stream 
when he was not rehearsing on the stage ; at one 
time starring in New York, at another back 
again in England — cosmopolitan in every sense 
of the word, age came prematurely. His hair 
whitened and his back was bowed before his 
first half-century was passed, and after a long 
and distressing illness his case took a hopeless 
turn." 

Southampton Cemetery, the spot where, in 
accordance with his own wish, he was put to rest, 
is an ideal burying-ground. Very beautiful did 
it look on the wintry Wednesday following his 
death, with its snow-covered ground and tomb- 



306 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

stones, and hoar-frost bedecked trees ; and as 
the lamented actor was lowered into his grave 
the sun shone brightly down and helped to 
form a picture which the ten friends who 
accompanied his sons to the grave-side are not 
likely to forget. It seemed but a small gather- 
ing that had assembled to pay the last mark 
of affection and respect to one so universally 
regretted, but the privacy and simplicity of the 
ceremony were strictly in accordance with his 
wishes and his well-known detestation of the 
ghastly paraphernalia which accompany too many 
of our English funerals. Time and place had, of 
course, prevented many, and especially his brother- 
actors, from being present ; but the utter absence 
of the ordinary crowd of gaping, curious idlers 
would have been after his own heart. He was 
surrounded by a few for whom he cared, and 
who took comfort in the fact that his eager, 
restless spirit had found rest, and in the thought 
that — 

" He has outsoared the shadow of our night ; 
Envy, and calumny, and hate, and pain, 
And that unrest which men miscall delight 
Can touch him not, and torture not again." 



CONCLUSION. 307 

In the history of the stage Sothern's name will 
perpetually live. Among his friends he will, 
while they have life, be remembered as one of the 
kindliest and most affectionate of men. 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 

Since the publication of the foregoing Memoir 
of Edward Askew Sothern, many exceedingly 
welcome communications have reached me from 
those who, at various stages of his checkered 
stage career, knew the gifted comedian whose 
life I have endeavoured to narrate. Some of 
these are of public interest, and I am glad of 
the opportunity that the issue of this edition gives 
me to add them to my work. 

Of the early Weymouth appearance that called 
forth the critical letter from Charles Kean with 
which my first chapter opens, Mr. Rowland 
Thomas, of Weymouth, writes me — 

" You make slight mention of his appearance 
at Weymouth, from whence he went to Ports- 
mouth. It happened that the box plan of the 
Weymouth Theatre was kept at the shop where I 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 309 

then carried on my business. ' Douglas Stuart ' 
(Sothern's then nom de theatre) came a day or two 
before the company from Jersey, and being in a 
fix about some lodgings that he had taken, I 
offered him the use of my own rooms until he 
could go to them. I mention these matters to 
show that I knew him, and always found him 
very gentlemanly in all his actions. Now for 
the incident that I believe was the cause of his 
going to America. One day he said to me that 
business was very bad, and asked me if I could 
not get him up a ' bespeak/ I thought of a Mrs. 
Deering, a member of a family from Kent, then 
staying here, and a sister of Colonel Yeo, who 
met with his death in the Crimea. Mrs. Deering 
consented to help us, and the choice of pieces was 
left to me. I chose c The Lady of Lyons,' Sothern 
playing Claude Melnotte, and Mrs. Poole, the 
manager's wife, Pauline. Mr. and Mrs. Deering, 
with their family and friends, were present, and, 
as a matter of consequence, there was a good 
house. A few days afterwards, Mrs. Deering 
told me that she was an old friend of Mr. Charles 
Kean's, and that she had written to him and told 



310 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

him that he must look to his laurels, as a young 
actor here was playing his parts exceedingly well, 
and she advised him to come to Weymouth and 
judge for himself. Then she asked me if I could 
get the piece put on again, as Kean had pro- 
mised to come ; but, at the same time, she begged 
me to say nothing to Sothern of the expected 
visitor. Kean, accompanied by a Colonel Blake, 
came on a night when the performance was re- 
peated ' by particular desire.' Sothern came to 
me next day, telling me that his fortune was 
made, as Kean would no doubt engage him for 
the Princess's. Subsequently he told me of his 
bitter disappointment, and his determination to 
go to America." 

Of the American ^re-Dundreary days little 
new information reaches me except that one cor- 
respondent calls my attention to the fact that 
Sothern's first appearance as Armand in "Camille" 
was cruelly said to have " every characteristic of 
a poker except its warmth." I am not surprised 
that I do not find this notice in Sothern's scrap- 
book, and I can picture to myself the sensitive 
and capable young actor writhing under the lash 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION". 311 

of a writer who, for the sake of saying a smart 
thing, ignored legitimate criticism. I do not 
believe that the so-called " critics " of this stamp 
ever killed a good actor, but that they have 
goaded easily affected natures to the verge of 
despair and madness is beyond all doubt. 

Concerning the days that immediately pre- 
ceded the production of " Our American Cousin " 
at Laura Keene's Theatre, Mr. S. B. Bancroft, 
with characteristic kindness and courtesy, writes 
me as follows : — 

" During my visit to New York, as a lad of 
seventeen, in 1858, I almost lived in the theatres, 
and saw Sothern play Littleton Coke in ' Old Heads 
and Young Hearts ' (which struck my then young 
judgment as one of his very best performances), 
Charles Surface, Harry Dornton, Young Marlow, 
Captain Absolute, Frederick Bramble, Charles Court- 
ley (most amusing), and, for a benefit, part of 
Nemours in ' Louis XL,' of which I then thought 
little good. Sothern was a comedian — an eccen- 
tric comedian — and a brilliant one. I enclose the 
old bills. The original Dundreary programme I 
gave to Sothern in 1863. He was kind to me 



312 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

then, and I entertain none but warm memories 
of him." 

Mr. Bancroft's interesting " old bills " tell me 
that Sothern played Littleton Coke, Charles Sur- 
face, Harry Dornton, Captain Absolute, and Frede- 
rick Bramble, to the Bob, Crabtree, Goldfinch, 
Acres, and Dr. Ollapod of Joseph Jefferson. 

Before taking leave of Mr. Bancroft, I shall, 
with his permission, tell two anecdotes in which 
Sothern characteristically figures. Prior to its 
production at the Haymarket, Watts Phillips's 
play, " The Woman in Mauve," was tried in 
Liverpool. " It began," says Mr. Bancroft, " well 
enough, and had amusing bits in it, but it was 
not a good play. Hare acted the ex-policeman, 
afterwards taken by Compton. I recall an 
amusing incident. The leading characters in the 
second act were joining in the chorus to a song 
sung by Sothern, Hare beating time with a tele- 
scope, which he used throughout the play as a 
kind of memory of his former truncheon. One 
night the audience roared with laughter, louder 
and louder at each successive verse ; the actors 
doubled their exertions, Hare especially, who 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 313 

attributed part of their enjoyment to the vigorous 
use of his impromptu baton, when Sothern, who 
was next to him, suddenly discovered that various 
articles of costume used by Hare as ' padding ' 
were, one by one, emerging from beneath his 
coat, and forming an eccentric-looking little heap 
upon the stage. The audience roared louder than 
ever, Hare beating time with renewed fierceness, 
when Sothern whispered, * Never mind, old fellow; 
don't take any notice ; don't look down ! ' Of 
course Hare did look down at once ; he saw what 
had happened, and bolted in confusion, leaving us 
to finish the scene as best we could without him." 

Linking as it does Sothern's name with that 
of an actor who, then on the threshold of his 
career, has now equalled him in fame, this little 
incident is a valuable addition to my story. 

Mr. Bancroft's next reminiscence deals with 
one of Sothern's innumerable practical jokes, and 
of these some critics have warned me I have 
already said enough ; but it is so good and charac- 
teristic, that, at the risk of being charged (like 
Mr. Hare in " The Woman in Mauve ") with 
undue " padding," I must add it to my store. 



314 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

" Staying at an hotel near Bangor," says Mr. 
Bancroft, " Sothern soon found out it was the 
custom of the oldest resident among the guests 
for the time being to preside at the little table 
d'hote, and that it was the rule for the chairman 
always to say grace. The joker one evening 
learnt by accident, not long before the dinner- 
hour, that the visitor who had for some days 
presided had received a telegram which compelled 
a hurried packing up and his departure. The 
spirit of mischief prompted Sothern to send a 
little note in the name of the landlord to all the 
other guests, some dozen or fifteen — of course 
privately and separately — couched in these words : 
" Our esteemed president, I regret to say, will 
not be at dinner this evening. May I venture to 
request you to have the kindness to say grace in 
his absence ? The signal for the same will be 
two sharp knocks upon the sideboard." The 
signal, at the proper moment, was of course given 
by Sothern, who was more than repaid by the 
glee with which he often told how all the guests 
rose to a man, as at a word of command, each 
commencing to pronounce his favourite form of 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 315" 

grace ; and then, with all sorts of blundering 
apologies to each other, they resumed their seats." 
Of the much discussed question of the origin 
of Lord Dundreary much has come to hand. 
Donald Robb writes, " I am afraid that history 
is after all only a confusion of facts. Joseph 
Jefferson and Lester Wallack are both quoted as 
saying that Sothern ' gagged ' the part of Dun- 
dreary ; but the latter claims that it was first 
done while he, Sothern, was playing with Laura 
Keene. A good many years ago Sothern was 
manager of the Theatre Royal at Halifax, Nova 
Scotia. I can see the old home of the players 
now, with its not very florid outside ornamenta- 
tion, the gaping joints in the wooden walls, its 
tawdry stencil frescoes, its little auditorium with 
the straight-backed penitential seats, its almost 
flat gallery where the gods used to yell with 
delight at the vagaries of ' Poor Pillicoddy ' (and 
Sothern was a good one), or thrill with excite- 
ment while Richard III., covering the whole 
stage with a sweep of his sword, hunted for 
another Richmond to kill ; the drop curtain that 
always swayed far enough to allow the parquette 

21 



316 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

to see the suddenly resuscitated Richard march 
off the stage without even a limp ; the wonderful 
trees that served as a hiding place for Jibbenainosy, 
the American Indian killer — or as a bower for an 
oriental maiden ; the ' properties ' from an Italian 
image vendor that formed the bric-a-brac in the 
studio of Phidias, the sculptor ; and through all, 
impregnating all, the lingering scent of the hay, 
which in the pre-theatre days, filled the old barn 
better than ever poor Sothern did. In this house 
Sothern first played Dundreary to genial John 
T. Raymond's Asa Trenchard. So them's Dun- 
dreary was unique, Raymond's Trenchard admir- 
able. Sothern gagged Dundreary unmercifully, 
but not in the first representation. Halifax was 
in those days an important garrison town, and 
among the officers were plenty of ultra-refined 
gentlemen who might well have served as models 
for Sothern's representation." 

That Sothern was at one time manager of the 
Halifax Theatre we have already seen, — and this 
peep at the difficulties under which he worked is 
interesting. Besides, it Would now appear that 
it was he, and not Mr. Pinero, who first contrived 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 317 

to draw " the scent of the hay over the foot- 
lights ! " But concerning the first production of 
" Our American Cousin," the writer must have been 
mistaken. This undoubtedly took place at Laura 
Keene's Theatre, New York, and I will now quote 
Mr. Joseph Jefferson on the subject. 

Says that admirable comedian and indisputable 
authority, "During the season 1858-59 Miss 
Keene produced Tom Taylor's play of ' Our 
American Cousin,' and as its success was remark- 
able and some noteworthy occurrences took place 
in connection with it, a record of its career will 
perhaps be interesting. The play had been sub- 
mitted by Mr. Taylor's agent to another theatre, 
but the management failing to see anything striking 
in it, an adverse judgment was passed and the 
comedy rejected. It was next offered to Laura 
Keene, who also thought but little of the play, 
which remained neglected upon her desk for some 
time ; but it so chanced that the business manager 
of the theatre, Mr. John Lutz, in turning over 
the leaves, fancied that he detected something in 
the play of a novel character. Here was a rough 
man, having no dramatic experience, but gifted 



318 EDWARD ASKEW S0THERX. 

with keen, practical sense, who discovered at a 
glance an effective play, the merits of which had 
escaped the vigilance of older and, one would 
have supposed, better judges. He gave me the 
play to read. While it possessed but little literary 
merit, there was a fresh breezy atmosphere about 
the characters and the story that attracted me 
very much. I saw, too, the chance of making a 
strong character of the leading part, and so I was 
quite selfish enough to recommend the play for 
production. 

" The reading took place in the green-room at 
which the ladies and gentlemen of the company 
were assembled, and many furtive glances were 
cast at Mr. Couldock and myself as the strength 
of Abel Murcott and Asa Tvenchard were revealed. 
Poor Sothern sat in the corner, quite disconsolate, 
fearing there was nothing in the play that would 
suit him ; and as the dismal lines of Dundreary 
were read he glanced over at me with a forlorn 
expression, as much as to say, ' I am cast for that 
dreadful part,' little dreaming that the character 
of the imbecile lord would turn out to be the 
stepping-stone of his fortune. The success of 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 319 

the play proved the turning-point in the career 
of three persons — Laura Keene, Sothern, and 
myself. ... As I have before said, Sothern was 
much dejected at having to play the part. He 
said he could do nothing with it, and certainly for 
the first two weeks it was a dull effort, and pro- 
duced but little effect. So in despair he began to 
introduce extravagant business into his character, 
skipping about the stage, stammering and sneezing, 
and, in short, doing all he could to attract and 
distract the attention of the audience. To the 
surprise of every one, himself included, these 
antics, intended by him to injure the character, 
were received by the audience with delight. He 
was a shrewd man, as well as an effective actor, 
and he saw at a glance that accident had revealed 
to him a golden opportunity. He took advantage 
of it, and with cautious steps increased his speed, 
feeling the ground well under him as he pro- 
ceeded. Before the first month was over, he 
stood side by side with any other character in the 
play ; and at the end of the run he was, in my 
opinion, considerably in advance of us all. And 
his success in London, in the same character, fully 



320 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN". 

attests, whatever may be said to the contrary, 
that as an extravagant, eccentric comedian in the 
modern range of comedy, he was quite without 
a rival. His performance of Sam which I saw 
at the Haymarket Theatre, in London, was a still 
finer piece of acting than his Dundreary. It was 
equally strong, and had the advantage of the 
other in not being overdrawn or extravagant." 

In connection with the impersonation ol 
Dundreary, my attention has been called (by Mr. 
Frederick Hawkins) to the late John Oxenford's 
admirable little essay on the subject. 

"Everybody," wrote Oxenford, "goes to see 
Lord Dundreary. But ask people the simple 
question under what category they would place 
Lord Dundreary, whether he is to be regarded as 
a fool or an out-of-the-way manifestation of shrewd- 
ness, and opinions are divided. According to the 
Mahomedan belief, fools and madmen are inspired. 
Is there not something Mahomedan in the manner 
in which Dundreary is regarded ? We know 
that he is not quite cannie ; but we hold there is 
something oracular about his utterances. . . . He 
is a nature without ballast. His sense of the 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 321 

ludicrous is most keen, his perceptive faculties 
are even over-developed. He grasps blindly at 
most original notions, and these slip away from 
him for want of tenacity of brain and continuity 
of thought. Power of concentration he has none. 
He thinks of too many things at a time, and 
cannot even finish an anecdote, some image totally 
foreign to the subject arising in his mind and 
chasing from his consciousness all that has gone 
before. The merest trifle puts him out. He 
has, as it were, no back to his head, and conse- 
quently no backbone to his character. Those who 
regard Dundreary as a mere stuttering fop are 
mistaken. He is, as we have said, a man without 
ballast — an incomplete man. He might have, 
been as logical as the best of us ; shone forth as 
a mathematician, a politician, an orator, what you 
will, had he not been subjected to a perpetual 
counteraction. He has impediments of all kinds — 
in speech, in gait, in eyesight, and, worst of all, 
in judgment. Moral respect he always commands, 
and none of the many laughs that are raised 
at his expense involve contempt. Whatever his 
deficiencies, he is a gentleman, a thoroughly kind- 



322 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

hearted gentleman too, and one utterly incapable 
of intentional rudeness or ill-nature." 

I quite agree with Mr. Hawkins in thinking 
that " no truer description of the whimsical figure 
which Sothern conceived, elaborated, and so per- 
fectly represented has yet been penned." 

In briefer fashion bluff and out-spoken Charles 
Reade has thus recorded his verdict — 

" Sothern. — A dry humorist. I believe he 
professes to mesmerize, and is an imitator of the 
Davenport Brothers. He can get his hands out 
of any knot I can tie. His Dundreary is true 
comedy, not farce. He is as grave as a judge 
over it, and in that excellent quality a successor 
to Liston." 

From the many " personal reminiscences " of 
my friend that have reached me, I gladly avail 
myself of the following: — 

Mr. Richard Davey writes me, " I first formed 
the acquaintance of E. A. Sothern in 1875, when 
I was dramatic editor of the New York Sjnrit of 
the Times. Mr. B — — , who was then staying 
at the G-ramacey Park Hotel, invited me to meet 
Sothern at breakfast. He had spoken to me 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 323 

a great deal about him, and when I entered the 
breakfast-room I was much disappointed at not 
seeing the celebrated actor. Our mutual friend 
led me on to express my opinion of Sot hern's 
acting, and I very boldly said that I was 
extremely grieved that so fine an actor should 
waste his time upon such a part as Lord Dun- 
dreary. Mr. B then asked me if I knew 

anything about Sothern's origin, and I said what 
I really believed at the time — that I thought he 
was the son of a clergyman, and that he had 
annoyed his extremely religious family by going 
on the stage. I was about to say a few other 
things of a like character, when suddenly I heard 
a deep groan, and, to my amazement, now perceived 
for the first time that I was not alone with rny 
host, for in a chair in a dark corner was, to 
all appearances, an elderly lady. Mr. B in- 
formed me that this was Mrs. Sothern, an aged 
relative of the actor, and I ventured upon a few 
commonplace remarks, to the effect that I hoped 
she had not been inconvenienced by the journey 
from England, and so forth. The venerable lady 
vouchsafed no answer, but continued to groan 



324 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

and to twist about in an alarming manner, until 
on a sudden, with a hop-skip, a la Dundreary, she 
threw off a table cover (with which she had draped 
her knees), and her bonnet, veil, and shawl — and 
Sothern stood before me. ' Very, glad to meet 
you,' said he ; ' only, I am not the son of a 
clergyman ; and I quite agree with you that 
Dundreary is a ludicrous caricature. But then he 
has put more money in my pocket than all the 
other parts I have ever played put together ; and 
the proof of the pudding is in the eating, you 
know.' And then we sat down to breakfast, 
Sothern entertaining us with the funniest possible 
descriptions of his sea-sick fellow-passengers. 

" Perhaps the most remarkable performance 
Sothern gave in New York was that of Othello, It 
was for a benefit, and was mainly organized by Mr. 
Florence.* I have every reason to believe that 
Sothern intended to play the part seriously, and, 
indeed, he read to me one morning in his rooms 
several scenes quite admirably. As a matter of 
fact, I never heard any actor pronounce the address 
to the senators with more artistic simplicity. The 
* See ante. 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 325 

curtain rose on a full house, there not being a 
vacant seat. Sothern was the Moor of Venice ; 
Florence, Iago ; and Miss Lotta, Desdemona. The 
opening scenes went well, and the address to 
which I have alluded was very finely rendered, 
and won a round of hearty applause. Everybody 
was wondering by this time whether we were to 
witness a serious or a burlesque performance. In 
the second act, Sothern, I believe, felt his power 
failing him, and thought that he could only save 
himself by becoming intensely ridiculous. Our 
first intimation of this intention was his giving 
one or two little hops, a la Dundreary. Then he 
shut one eye, and stuck an eye-glass in the other, 
and from that moment until the closing scene his 
clever burlesquing of the part caused incessant 
merriment. It would be absolutely impossible to 
describe the drollery of the famous scene between 
Iago and Othello, in which the latter throws the 
treacherous ' ancient ' to the ground. It was 
simply Lord Dundreary, with his eccentricities 
accentuated, acting Othello. Florence, too, put 
on a broad Irish brogue for the benefit of Iago ; 
and as to Miss Lotta, she skipped and frisked as 



326 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN". 

Desdemona, and instead of singing the ' Willow ' 
song, produced a banjo and gave us one of her 
favourite * nigger ' ditties. She absolutely refused 
to be smothered, and played pitch and toss with 
the pillows, whilst Iago threatened to put an end 
to the tragedy with a fire hose. And so ended 
this memorable performance, which, excepting, 
perhaps, when Mr. George Rignold played Romeo, 
for a charitable purpose, to five Juliets (Sothern, 
by the way, formed one of the audience), has never 
been surpassed. . . . 

" On my return to England I renewed my 
friendship with Sothern. Whether he had any 
presentiment that his end was approaching I 
cannot say, but it is certain that on several 
occasions when I was with him alone, we had 
conversations of a distinctly religious character. 
Reverence was not one of his characteristics, but, 
on the other hand, he could not bear profane jokes, 
and once when I was showing him a French 
caricature which parodied an event in Scripture, 
he exclaimed, ' I cannot stand that sort of thing ! ' 
and, snatching it from my hand, he put the 
obnoxious print in the fire. ' I wish,' he con- 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 327 

tinned, ' that you had not shown it to me. It 
has put me out for the rest of the day.' This 
incident led to our talking of a future existence, 
and of revealed religion, and I recall his saying 
how on two occasions in his life he had, as he 
quaintly put it, ' been very near God.' The 
first was some years previously in Canterbury 
Cathedral, towards evening, when the light of the 
setting sun was streaming through the stained- 
glass windows. ' It seemed to me,' he said, 
' that I really was in the house of God, and that 
by advancing down the stately aisle, I should 
somehow meet Him face to face. I cannot say 
how long I stood ruminating, but it was until the 
brilliant crimson light had faded, and then, to my 
surprise, I found myself leaning against a tomb, 
crying like a child, and involuntarily repeating to 
myself the Lord's Prayer over and over again.' 
The same thing, he said, occurred to him on 
another occasion when he was crossing the 
Atlantic. The sea had been very rough, but was 
getting calm towards evening, and the sun was 
setting brilliantly. ' It impressed me,' he went 
on to say, ' with an overpowering sense of my 



328 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

own small ness and of the greatness of the Un- 
known ; and then again the prayer came back to 
me, and I threw my hat off and repeated it 
continually as before.' He was of a very generous 
nature, and it is within my knowledge that he 
continually sent large sums of money to poor 
actors, and even to people whose distress he had 
merely read about in the papers. A few months 
before his death, and when it was decided that he 
should go to Italy, he asked me to assist him 
in writing a book, in which he, in the character of 
Dundreary, was to address me a series of letters 
describing his travels, and I was to answer him 
in the character of a Russian Princess, supposed 
to be desperately in love with him. I was to 
sign my letters, ' Yours, Clarissa Tartarkinsky,' 
the name being his own invention." 

Concerning the production of " The Woman in 
Mauve," Mr. P. M. Feeney writes, " Sothern at 
this time was, as usual with any new piece, full 
of enthusiasm. He asked me to the first rehearsal, 
promising that I should see a girl with the most 
remarkable head of hair in London, whom he had 
picked up from some factory, and who had never 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 329 

before appeared upon the stage. He was also 
anxious that I should give him my opinion about 
the piece. I went at the appointed time, and, 
passing on to the stage, noticed a slatternly girl, 
almost half asleep, resting against one of the 
scenes. This was ' The Woman in Mauve,' and 
she was to do little else than pose. Buckstone, 
incredulous as to the whole business, was in a 
bad temper, and he and Sothern had a somewhat 
amusing passage of arms, Sothern insisting on 
Buckstone repeating his part, until the latter put 
on his hat in high dudgeon and abruptly left the 
theatre for the consoling precincts of the Cafe de 
l'Europe, where he used a good deal of strong 
language as to the way in which he had been 
treated. I spoke to Sothern about this afterwards, 
and he vindicated himself by saying that there was 
often a good deal of looseness in leading actors 
when called upon to rehearse before their own 
company, and that he (Sothern) was not a man 
to allow any neglect on the part of any actor to 
escape criticism. ' He would make Buckstone give 
proper attention to his part.' And he did, though 
not without a considerable amount of trouble. 



330 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

What struck me most during the frequent re- 
hearsals of this subsequently unsuccessful play 
was the immense pains that Sothern took in 
every detail. Nothing seemed to escape his pene- 
trating observation, and he spared no trouble 
in getting the mechanical accessories of the piece 
perfect. 

" It was a little before this time, and when 
Dundreary was the rage in town, that I saw more 
of Sothern, and became a pretty frequent visitor 
in his snug dressing-room at the Hay market, 
where I would sit smoking, and witnessing his 
transformation from a sensible, cool-headed man, 
in a check suit, to the elaborately-dressed, weak- 
headed peer. The dresser would bathe his feet 
in rose-water, and tenderly, as if they were sacred 
relics, produce from the wardrobe the magnificent 
masterpieces of raiment, the immortal waistcoat, 
the immaculate swallow-tail, the consummate shirt 
and necktie — Sothern, all the time he was being 
arrayed, working away at the inevitable cigar, 
and chatting about topics very far removed from 
things theatrical. When properly ' built up ' by 
his dresser, and with studs, watch, chain, and 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 33 1 

rings arranged to his satisfaction, he would com- 
pose himself in his arm-chair and proceed to tell 
some amusing anecdote, generally to be spoilt by 
the ' call boy,' who would give his signal that 
the * great man ' was wanted on the stage. 
Sothern would then place his lighted cigar on the 
table and disappear, and the distant roar of 
acclamation told me that my friend was before 
the footlights. After a brief interval he would 
calmly reappear, resume his half-smoked cigar, 
and finish the half-told anecdote. Nearly all 
these stories related to the practical jokes in which 
he loved to take part. Some of these I regretted, 
as they seemed to me to transgress the bounds of 
legitimate fun. On one of these ' dressing even- 
ings ' he told me how, after dining somewhere in 
the Strand, he seized hold of the first policeman 
he met, worked himself up into a state of assumed 
excitement, and told the constable that a terrible 
murder had been committed in an alley leading to 
an adjacent hotel, that the body was lying on the 
ground, and that he was dashing off to get 
medical advice. It was always a mystery to me 
how he did not in such ways get himself into 

22 



332 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

serious trouble. Very wonderful to me was the 
way in which, after going through the ordeal of 
the nightly applause of enthusiastic audiences, he 
would throw off the actor and appear as the good- 
natured host, restlessly solicitous for the comfort 
of his guests. We had many quiet after-theatre 
suppers together at The Cedars, and many a 
game of billiards, of which Sothern was intensely 
fond, and it was there that I came into contact 
with many of the literary and dramatic celebrities 
of the day, who found the most generous hospi- 
tality in a home where the host was perfect, and 
the hostess witty, considerate, and graceful." 

To his valued friend, Mr. Sam. Timmins, 
Sothern wrote many characteristic letters, of which 
the following may serve as a specimen : — 

" Edinburgh, May 26, 1863. 

" Dear Timmins, 

"House last night good, but not 
crowded. Piece a decided hit. I find out now 
that for twelve years this is the first time the 
theatre has been kept open during this period, 
being the worst in the whole year ! Pleasant ! 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 333 

It is the quintessence of a bad company. Nothing 
could be worse ! A wet day and a headache. 

" Ever yours, 

" E. A. SOTHERN." 

Mr. Timmins also calls my attention to the 
following letter that, in October, 1867, was 
addressed to the editor of the Birmingham Daily 
Post :— 

" Sir, 

" There are few men but what feel a 
gratification at being in any way connected with 
the earlier career of those who, by their talent 
or genius, ultimately acquire fame and greatness. 
Confessing myself subject to this weakness (if 
weakness it be), I take the liberty of recounting 
1 the first appearance,' on any stage, of a gentle- 
man who is unequivocably, at present, the most 
popular actor of the day. Some years ago, when 
I was the proprietor of the Adelphi Theatre, 
Glasgow, one morning a young gentleman pre- 
sented himself at the theatre. He wanted to act. 
Would pay a handsome gratuity if his request 



334 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

was complied with — only it must be that very 
night. ' But the bills are out, and we cannot 
change the pieces,' I observed. ' What do you 
play ? ' he inquired. ' The Wonder.' ' Well, 
allow me to play Don Felix, and I will take all 
your private boxes.' His singular and earnest 
manner interested me. I consented. He acted, 
and gained great applause. Years elapsed. I 
had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sothern upon his 
late visit to Birmingham. He inquired, did I 
recollect the circumstance above narrated ? I 
did. Thus Mr. Sothern made his first appearance 
on any stage. 

" D. P. Miller, 
" Author of ' The Life of a Showman.' " 

This episode, no doubt, belonged to Sothern's 
eager amateur days. He always spoke of the 
Jersey engagement to which I referred in my 
first chapter as his first real experience as an 
actor. 

To my friend, T. W. Eobertson, the younger, 
I am indebted for the following interesting letter, 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 335 

written to his father concerning the comedy, 
" Birth " :— 

"Dear Tom, 

u Your resolve is sensible and plucky. 
I feel convinced the piece will go a season in 
London. The volunteers at present are too often 
on the stage. Once I am on the scene I should 
be but little of a listener. Those lines of mine in 
Act I. go off like rockets and are dead certainties, 
and the more I get of that class the more 
brilliantly my part goes. I'm an awfully bad 
long-speech actor, but give me good lines, or 
rapid asides, and I give the author the full benefit 
of every word. I don't insure this on the first 
night, for on that occasion my value is about 
thirty shillings a week. I must know I have 
' got ' the audience, and you understand, I am 
sure, what I mean. I shall play the piece in 
Liverpool as it is, and if it runs I shall call fresh 
rehearsals when I get your alterations, and wind 
up with it in its new form. 

" Ever yours, 

" E. A. SOTHERN." * 

* This letter is now in the possession of Mr. Charles 
Wyndham, who has kindly permitted me to reproduce it. 



336 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERN. 

As we know, in the super-nervous hands of 
Sothern, " Birth " (admirable comedy as it is) was 
not destined to run, and when Robertson's failing 
health rendered his exacting " alterations " matters 
of practical impossibility the impulsive actor 
wrote : — 

" Don't worry about ' Birth.' Get well, and 
write me another comedy, and another, and 
another after that." 

Finally I am reminded (and with more fitting 
or graceful words I cannot better end my book) 
of what Greorge Augustus Sala wrote, January 29, 
1881. 

" And poor Edward Sothern, since I last 
addressed my readers, is dead and buried ! It 
was on the 1st of last March, that arriving at 
San Francisco, I saw Sothern at the Baldwin 
House, and found him reading a cablegram from 
Mr. John Hollingshead about a new comedy by 
Mr. Gilbert, in which Sothern was to make his 
appearance at the Gaiety, after the engagement 
of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Florence had come to a 
close. He was filling a large theatre in San 



POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION. 337 

Francisco every night with enthusiastic audiences; 
and I saw him play Lord Dundreary for the 
fourth or fifth thousandth time — I really forget 
which. He was still chatty, vivacious, and charm- 
ing ; but he looked dreadfully ill, anxious, and 
worn. Some few days afterwards we met at the 
pretty hotel opposite the Seal Rock, at the Grolden 
Gates of the Bay of San Francisco. We were to 
have lunched together ; but he became, in the 
course of the afternoon, so ill that he was fain to 
lie down on a bed in one of the rooms of the hotel 
and try to snatch some repose until he went back 
to town to work. The last time that I saw him 
was in a private box at the London Princess's, on 
the first night of Mr. Booth's performance there 
of Hamlet. Poor Sothern then said that he was 
better, and spoke hopefully of his speedy reappear- 
ance on the stage ; but he looked the very ghost 
of his former comely self. As the old nurses used 
to say, he looked ' marked for death.' Yes, on 
his prematurely blanched brow there was the 
fatal sign, Thanatos. Of his shining talents and 
distinct originality as a comedian I may speak 
again. As the grave closes over him I can only 



338 EDWARD ASKEW SOTHERtf. 

say that a kindlier-hearted and more charitable 
man, a warmer friend, a more delightful com- 
panion, and a more urbane gentleman never lived 
than Edward Askew Sothern." 



INDEX 



" A Bachelor of Arts," 18 

Abbey, 239, 240 

Adams, Edwin, 102, 103 

" A Hero of Romance," 79, 80, 

146, 155 
" A Hornet's Nest," 101 
Albany, 154 
Albert Bressange, 78 
" A Lesson for Life," 77, 78, 164 
" An English Gentleman," 86 
"An Incident in the Life of a 

Pagan Baby," 267-274 
" A Regular Fix," 75, 124 
Armand Duval, 16, 19, 310 
Asa Trenchard, 27, 38, 46, 47, 

53, 157, 316, 318 
" A Threepenny Bit," 86 
Augier, Emile, 80 
Augustus Thrillington, 86 
" A Wife Well Won," 78 
" A Wild Goose," 78 



Badminton, 181 
^ Baltimore, 14, 147, 148 



Bancroft, Mrs., 125 

Bancroft, S. B., 146, 311-314 

Barnum's Museum, 14 

" Barwise's Book," 83-86 

Belfast, 183 

Benedick, 18 

Beverley, 27 

" Birds of a Feather," 11 

Birmingham, 7, 9, 10, 25, 69, 74, 

81, 94, 95, 167, 173, 181 
" Birth," 82, 335, 336 
Blake, Colonel, 310 
Blakeley, W., 163 
Bob, 312 

Bob Acres, 18, 312 
Booth, Edwin, 337 
" Boots at the Swan," 9 
Boston, 11, 161, 162, 166, 196 
Boucicault, Dion, 29,30, 161, 162, 

239 
" Box and Cox," 160, 163 
Braid, 27 
Brighton, 167 
Brooklyn, 166 
Brother Sam, 3, 33, 42-44, 50, 

54, 65, 71, 72, 78, 103, 320 
Brough, Lionel, 125 
Buckstone, J. B.,14, 27, 28, 108, 

125, 177, 329 
" Buffalo," 145 



340 



INDEX. 



" Bunkum Muller," 67 
Bvron, H. J., 57, 81, 86-88, 96, 
101, 127, 128, 170, 288 



C 



Camille, 16, 19, 310 
Cannes, 170 
Canterbury, 276, 327 
Captain Absolute, 311, 312 
Captain Walter Maydenblush, 67, 

164 
Celeste, Madame, 157 
Charles Chuckles, 86, 87 
Charles Courtley, 18, 311 
Charles Mulcraft, 83-85 
Charles Surface, 18, 311, 312 
Cheviot Hill, 104 
Chicago Tribune, 293-296 
Chippendale, 27, 125 
Clark, 27 
Clarke, John, 29 
Clarke, John S., 167 
Claude Melnotte, 2, 3, 6, 19, 74- 

76, 164, 309 
Colonel John White, 81 
Compton, Edward, 71, 106 
Compton, Henry, 125, 312 
Couldock, 318 
Count Joannes, 97-101 
Count Priuli, 146, 152 
Coyne, Sterling, 153 
Crabtree, 312 
Craven, H. T., 83 



Dacre, Mrs. Arthur, 281 
Davey, Eichard, 322 



"David Garrick," 68-70, 78, 105, 

111, 112, 120-122, 124, 147, 

164, 173, 277 
Deering, Mrs., 309 
" Delicate Ground," 19 
Br. Ollapod, 312 
Dr. Pangloss, 11, 18 
"Douglas Stuart," 7, 8, 11-13, 

15, 146, 201, 309 
Drew, Mrs. John, 102 
Dublin, 146 

" Dundreary a Father," 58, 163 
"Dundreary Married and Settled," 

55 



E 



East Grinstead, 182 

Edinburgh, 188 

" Engaged," 104 

" Esmeralda," 29 

" Everybody's Friend," 153 



Falconer, Edmund, 29 

Farren, William, 125 

Fechter, 29 

Feeney, P. M., 328 

Felix Featherley, 153 

Feuillet, Octave, 78, 145 

Fielding, 133 

Fiske, Stephen, 245-248 

Fitzaltamont, 88-101 

Florence, W. J., 102, 224, 237, 

238, 240-245, 324, 325, 336 
" Flowers of the Forest," 14, 153 
" Foggerty's Fairy," 105 
Forrest, Mrs., 161 
Frank Annerly, 73 
Frank Friskley, 9, 10 
Frederick Bramble, 311, 312 



INDEX. 



341 



Gilbert, W. S., 104, 129, 130, 336 
Gilmer, Moris., 6, 9 
Glasgow, 207 
Goldfinch, 312 
Gossamer t 18 



H 



Halifax, 163,315, 316 

" Hamlet," 8 

Hare, John, 125, 312, 313 

Harley Street, 197 

Harry Dornton, 311, 312 

Harry Jasper, 18 

Harry Vivian, 77 

Hawkins, Frederick, 320, 322 

Henrade, Miss, 27 

Herbert, Miss, 29, 146 

Heron, Miss Matilda, 16, 161, 162 

Hollingshead, John, 336 

" Home," 80, 81 

Hon. Sam Slingsby, 72, 320 

Horley, 182 

Hounds — 

Baron Rothschild's, 191, 193 

Cheshire, 189 

Duke of Beaufort's, 181, 185, 
189 

Essex Stag, 194 

Heathcote's 179, 182 

Pytchley, 182 

Queen's, 179, 180, 182, 184, 
195 

Surrey Stag, 176, 195 

Warwickshire, 180 

, North, 180, 182, 192 

H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, 78, 

182, 195 



Hlustrated Sporting and Dramatic 

News, 131 
Inter Ocean, 282-287 
Irving, Henry, 58, 125, 174 



James, David, 126 

Jason, 153 

Jefferson, J., 160, 312, 315, 317 

Jenner, Sir William, 303 

Jersey, 5, 7-9, 163, 309 

" John Dobbs," 11 

Jones, Miss Avonia, 29 

Jules D'Alber, 148-152 



K 



Kean, Charles, 3, 9, 10, 75, 160, 

308-310 
Keeley, 1 
Keene, Miss Laura, 17, 24, 25, 

158, 159, 311, 315, 317, 319 
Kendal, Mrs., 74, 125 
Kendal, W. H., 125 
Kensington, 116, 197 



11 La Dame aux Camelias," 16, 19, 

68 
Larkin, Miss, 126 
" Laugh When You Can," 18 
" L'Aventuriere," 80 
Leatherhead, 179 
Lindley, Miss H., 27 
Liston, 322 



342 



INDEX. 



Liverpool, 3, 10, 19, 161, 183, 312, 
335 

"London Assurance," 18 

Lord Dundreary, 3, 10, 16, 23- 
25, 27, 28, 30-34, 36-38, 40-42, 
44-50, 52-55, 58, 63-67, 69, 
71, 72, 81, 83, 87-89, 93, 94, 
96, 97, 103, 105, 109-112, 146, 
152, 154, 155, 160-162, 166, 
172, 174, 177, 311, 315, 316, 
318, 320-323, 328, 330, 337 

Lotta, Miss, 102, 325 

"Louis XL," 311 

Lutz, John, 317 

Lyttleton Coke, 18, 311, 312 



M 



McCullough, John, 174 
Marston, Dr. Westland, 73, 78, 

105, 110, 146, 265 
Mathews, Charles, 28, 72, 75-, 

110, 126 
May Bowen, 195 
" Medea," 29, 153 
Moore, Miss Nellie, 70 
Morton, John Maddison, 86, 104, 

163 
Mr. Gatherwool, 104 
" Much Ado About Nothing," 18 
" My Aunt," 19 
"My Aunt's Advice," 67 



N 



Neilson, Miss Adelaide, 221-223 

Nemours, 311 

New Orleans, 155 

New York, 14, 17, 18, 25, 102, 
105, 145, 158, 159, 166, 172, 
196, 201, 311, 317, 322, 324 



Not if I Know It! "86 

Not Such a Fool as He Looks," 

81 

Nym Crinkle," 32 



" Old Heads and Young Hearts," 

18, 311 
Oliver, Miss M., 27 
" Othello," 5, 29, 102, 103, 164, 

258-261, 324 
" Our American Cousin," 23, 27- 

30, 38, 44, 45, 52, 55, 63, 68, 

78, 155-162, 311, 317 
Oxenford, John, 72, 146, 320 



Paris, 58 

Paternan, Miss Bella, 163 

"Pauline; or, A Night oi 

Terror," 21 
" Peep o' Day," 29 
" Peregrine Pickle," 133 
Phelps, 29 
Philadelphia, 88, 89, 147, 159, 

196 
Phillips, Watts, 71, 146, 312 
Pinero, A. W., 316 
Poole, Mrs., 309 
" Poor Pillicoddy," 19, 315 
Portsmouth, 308 
Puff, 153 



Q 



Queenstown, 165 



INDEX. 



343 



Rachel, 126 

" Rambling Reflections," 131-144 

Ramsgate, 299, 300 

Raphael, 18, 153 

Raymond, John T., 58-60, 226- 

228, 316 
Reade, Charles, 322 
" Redemption," 145 
Reece, Robert, 104 
" Retribution," 146, 153 
Richardson, 120, 133 
Richmond, 182, 195 
Rignold, George, 326 
Rignold, William, 147 
Robb, Donald, 315 
Robert Devlin, 78 
Robertson, Miss Madge, 74, 78 
Robertson, T. W., 68, 80, 82, 119, 

146, 334, 336 
Robson, 29 
Rogers, 27 
Rogers, James, 29 
"Roman d'un Jeune Homme 

Pauvre," 78, 145, 146 
Rome, 171 

Roselle, Miss Amy, 172, 277-281 
Royal General Theatrical Fund, 

108, 110 



St. Helier's, 5, 7, 8 

St. Pierre, 19 

Saker, Edward, 58, 125, 165 

Saker, Mrs. Edward, 165 

San Francisco, 337 

Sala, George Augustus, 336 

Salvini, 164 

Scott, Sir Walter, 133-135 



Sefton, L. J., 60, 164, 276 
Sheridan Amateur Dramatic 

Society, 5 
*« She Stoops to Conquer," 18, 28 
Silsby, Josiah, 157-159 
Simpson, Mercer, 9, 10 
Simpson, Professor, 303 
Sinclair, Mrs., 161, 162 
Sir Charles Coldstream, 3 
" Sir Charles Grandison," 133 
Sir Hugh de Brass, 75 
Sir Simon Simple, 82, 87 
Smith, J. C, 7, 74 
Smith, Mrs. J. C, 163 
Smollett, 133 

Sothern, E. H., 30, 45, 104 
Sothern, Lytton, 66, 172 
Sothern, Mrs., 172 
Southampton, 305 
Spirit of the Times, 266-274, 304, 

322 
Spiritual Magazine, 199-207 
" Suspense," 145, 148-152, 155 
Sydney Spoonbill, 101 



Taylor, Tom, 23, 44, 47, 53, 55, 
77, 146, 155, 157, 158, 317 

Terry, Edward, 125 

Terry, Miss Ellen, 67 

Terry, Miss Kate, 29 

Theatres — 
Adelphi, 29, 88, 157, 158, 333 
Birmingham, Theatre Royal, 
7, 9, 10, 25, 74, 173 

, Prince of Wales, 69 

Boston, Howard Athenaeum, 
11, 12, 14, 161, 162 

, National, 11, 13, 14 

Criterion, 105 
Drury Lane, 29 



344 



INDEX. 



Theatres — 

Edinburgh, Theatre Eoyal, 56 

Haymarket, 10, 25-28, 30, 31, 
34, 55, 64, 66, 71, 72, 77, 
78, 80, 82, 86, 96, 101, 108, 
109, 125, 176, 189, 320, 330 

Lyceum, 29 

New York, Laura Keene's, 17, 
23, 311, 317 

, Wallack's, 16 

Olympic, 29 

Princess's, 29, 310, 337 

Sadler's Wells, 29 

St. Helier's, 5, 8 

St. James's, 29 

Strand, 29, 88 

Weymouth, 3 
" The Actor," 106 
The Athenceum, 35 
"The Captain of the Watch," 

86 
The Cedars, 116, 182, 197, 332 
" The Colleen Bawn," 29 
"The Crushed Tragedian," 89- 

103, 107, 166, 167, 288, 289 
" The Favourite of Fortune," 73, 

164 
" The Founder of the Family," 

103 
" The Gamester," 5, 27 
" The Heir at Law," 11, 18 
" The Highest Bidder," 104 
" The Isle of St. Tropez," 29 
The Kinchin, 14-16, 153- 
" The Lady of Lyons," 2, 3, 6, 9, 

19, 75, 309 
"The Last Shilling," 86 
"The Little Treasure," 67, 164 
"The Marble Heart," 18, 19, 

153 
The Marquis of Piccadilly, 105 
" The Miracle Circle," 201 
" The Morning Call," 19 



" The Prompters Box," 88 

" The Rivals," 18 

" The Romance of a Poor Young 

Man," 145, 155 
" The Romance of a Very Poor 

Young Oyster-Man," 155 
"The School for Scandal," 18 
The Times, 63 
" The Wife," 18 
" The Winter's Tale," 29 
" The Woman in Mauve," 71, 312, 

313, 328, 329 
Thomas, Rowland, 308 
Timmins, Sam., 332, 333 
" Tom Jones," 133 
Toole, J. L., 125, 229, 237, 251, 

261-265 
" Trade," 104 
" Trying it On," 19 
" Twenty Minutes with a Tiger," 

19 
" Two Can Play at That Game," 

19 
" Two Stars ; or, The Foot-lights 
and the Fireside," 88 



U 

" Used Up," 2, 9, 19, 75 
Uxbridge, 182 



Vandenhoff, Miss, 161, 162 
Vere Street, Cavendish Square, 

304 
Verne, Jules, 139 
Victor, Marquis de Tourville, 79, 

80 



INDEX. 



345 



Vincent, Mrs. J. R., 11, 168-170 
Vining, George, 146 



W 

Wallack, James, 16, 17, 201 
Wallack, Lester, 7, 16, 161, 315 
Washington, 14, 147, 148 
Waverley Novels, 135 
Webster, Benjamin, 157, 158, 

160 
Weymouth, 3, 8, 308, 310 



Wigan, Alfred, 29, 146 
Wilton, Miss Marie, 29 
Wolverhampton, 9, 10, 146 
Wood, Mrs. John, 229, 230 
Wyndham, Charles, 71, 105, 335 



Yeo, Colonel, 309 
Young, A. W., 86 
Young, Mrs. Charles, 27 



Young Marlow, 18 



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